Updated 2:43 p.m.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved acting Associate Attorney General Tony West's bid to take over the role full time, as well as two district court nominees for the Southern District of New York.
The committee approve West with a voice vote in a quick meeting. His nomination for third-in-command at Main Justice now moves to the full Senate, where it must navigate the escalating conflict over President Barack Obama's nominees—particularly for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Republicans did not call into question West's qualifications, but they held up his nomination as part of a broader controversy over the U.S. Department of Justice’s handling of a whistleblower’s case from St. Paul, Minn. Critics contend the government walked away from a potential significant whistleblower recovery in exchange for protecting a legal theory that DOJ lawyers use in discrimination litigation.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent out written statement after the vote that said he remains concerned about West's role in that whistleblower deal. "If this nominee is ultimately confirmed, I sincerely hope he does not let politics within the department control, instead of support, good faith whistleblowers who stick their necks out," Grassley said.
The committee also approved with a voice vote the nominations of Valerie Caproni and Vernon Broderick to become judges in the Southern District of New York. The nominations will also now await confirmation votes in the full Senate. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) passed on the Caproni vote but did not explain why.
Caproni, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation general counsel, is currently vice president and deputy general counsel at Northrop Grumman Corp., and has previously worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York and the law firms Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
Grassley said in the statement that while he did not hold Caproni's nomination in committee, he reserves his right to do so on the Senate floor. His dispute with her goes back more than six years, when Caproni was at the FBI and Grassley requested copies of unclassified emails related to the use of National Security Letters issued by the FBI.
"I only received a few of these emails, and they were heavily redacted, so in 2008 I asked for the rest. Ms. Caproni, was general counsel of the FBI at the time and told me that the documents I was waiting for were on her desk, awaiting her review," Grassley said in the statement. "Well, it’s now 2013 and as of her hearing, I had never received these documents."
Grassley said he remains unsatisfied with the documents that have been produced so far.
Broderick is a partner at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York City, where he focuses on white collar criminal cases, regulatory investigations, and business litigation.