Senators have reached an agreement to vote on James Cole for deputy attorney general, Virginia Seitz for assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel and Lisa Monaco for assistant attorney general for national security. The so-called unanimous consent agreement is included in this morning’s Senate calendar (PDF). Senate leaders still must work out an exact day and time to consider the nominees, according to the agreement.
Cole, a former Bryan Cave partner, is already serving as the Justice Department’s No. 2 official under a recess appointment. Senate confirmation would allow him to serve past the end of this year. Monaco, who is currently Cole’s top deputy, and Seitz, a Sidley Austin partner in Washington, have each been waiting months for votes, despite no public opposition to their confirmation.
In May, Republicans filibustered Cole’s nomination, saying they had concerns about views he’s expressed on trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) also threatened to hold up all DOJ nominations unless he received more cooperation with oversight requests.
Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine said today that the Justice Department “disregarded and disrespected” the senator’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight. Grassley is the ranking Republican, but not chairman, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But Levine added that the situation has recently brightened. Last week, the House Oversight Committee held hearings on a controversial anti-gun-smuggling program that’s also the subject of an inquiry from DOJ’s inspector general, and Grassley is expecting further information on the program.
“After working through a series of issues with the Justice Department, Senate leadership and Senator [Patrick] Leahy, the attorney general has finally given his word that documents, witnesses and information will be provided on an equal footing with the House committee’s and the inspector general’s investigation,” Levine said in an e-mailed statement.
Updated at 2:45 p.m. National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.