In a surprising blow to President Obama, seven Democratic Senators turned against his controversial nominee Justice Department nominee, Debo Adegbile, helping defeat him on a bare-majority vote, 47-52.
Adegbile, nominated to be the DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, had earned the ire of law enforcement officials for the way because of his defense of cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, essentially portraying the slain police officer as a racist.
He also encountered controversy because he dismissed the merits of a range of contitutional and civil rights important to conservatives.
For example, Adegbile argued that the Second Amendment does not give ordinary Americans the right right to own a gun. He also argued that churches have no religious liberty protections against the federal government ordering a church to reinstate a to a teaching ministry position someone the church had fired for violating church teaching. (The Supreme Court rejected this argument by a 9-0 vote, holding in its 2012 Hosanna-Tabor case that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could not order a Lutheran church to take back a defrocked minister because the EEOC’s order violated the First Amendment.)
On the flip-side, Adegbile does push for recognition of various controversial civil rights that have never been recognized by the Supreme Court. For example, Adegbile has argued a business can be required to hire convicted felons, because refusing to do so violates the felon’s civil rights.
The vote is important because it’s one of the first major nomination fights since Majority Leader Harry Reidinvoked the nuclear option, removing the possibility of filibusters that require 60 votes to move a nomination. Sen. Lindsay Graham has warned that Americans should expect President Obama to nominate individuals who are much further to the left, since the president need only get 51 votes to confirm them.
Reid changed his vote against Adegbile after initially voting for him, which was likely done for procedural reasons.