This was a vote on a motion to end debate (cloture motion) on President Obama’s nomination of James Michael Cole to be Deputy Attorney General. Cloture motions require 60 votes for passage.
Under the constitution, the president has the authority to nominate individuals for positions in the Department of Justice, but a majority of the Senate must vote in favor of their nomination in order for them to be sworn into office.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) supported this nomination, and urged senators to vote in favor of cloture: “Mr. Cole…will always put principle over politics, and he is committed to evaluating each case and matter that comes before him based on the facts and the law. That is what you want from the Department of Justice….The bottom line about Mr. Cole's approach on fighting terrorists is one I believe we all believe in. We are a nation at war with al-Qaida, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We need tough, aggressive, and flexible policies that recognize the paramount importance of providing the president with the ability to use all of the lawful tools--all of the lawful tools--of our national power to protect the American people and bring terrorists to justice….I think Jim Cole is the best person for this critically important job, and I do not think he is at all a partisan person. I know him well….this is not a nominee where you should be using a filibuster to prevent an up-or-down vote.”
Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), accused Cole of having “represented terrorists” because he had represented Saudi Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in a civil suit brought against him by survivors and families of victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Sessions said: “I am just going to say this: I am not voting for another nominee--I am not going to vote for this one--who spent their time defending terrorists before they went to the Department. It is all right to defend an unpopular person, but 13 to 16 members of the Department of Justice, political appointees by this administration, have had as their background defending terrorists… and also working for or representing the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union]….So I believe the President should be nominating proven prosecutors--prosecutors of terrorists, frankly--for top positions in the law enforcement agency, the U.S. Department of Justice. I do not think we need any more terrorist defense attorneys.”
The vote on this cloture motion was 50-40. Voting “yea” were 49 Democrats and 1 Republican. 39 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted “nay.” Since this motion did not receive the 60 votes required to invoke cloture, the measure failed. As a result, the Senate rejected a motion to end debate on President Obama’s nomination of James Michael Cole to be the Deputy Attorney General. While Democrats vowed to continue to press for Cole’s confirmation, it was unclear whether or when Reid would schedule another cloture vote on his nomination.