This was a vote on confirming James Michael Cole to be Deputy Attorney General.
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) urged support for Cole’s nomination: “…I am very pleased that soon we will be voting on Jim Cole to be the Deputy Attorney General of the United States. This is a person who puts principle over politics, a person who is very important in our war against terror and who will use all lawful tools to keep our nation safe. So I am proud to take a few moments to urge my colleagues to vote for his confirmation. I think that is in our national security interests, and I know he will be and already is an incredible asset to this country in keeping us safe and doing so in the best traditions of the U.S. Attorney General's Office…..The Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General are our nation's lawyers. They don't represent one party; they represent our country. We need leadership in the Department of Justice who will work in a nonpartisan way, a way that will bring nonpartisan leadership to the Department of Justice. Jim Cole is that type of person. He has the experience, he has the character, and he has the commitment to fill this very important position in our nation, with 13 years in the Department of Justice and experience in public interest law. His career has been devoted to the public interest in community service.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) opposed Cole’s nomination: “In particular, I am seriously concerned about Mr. Cole's views on national security and on terrorism. Back in 2002, Mr. Cole was author of an opinion piece in the Legal Times. In that piece he stated: ‘For all the rhetoric about war, the September 11 attacks were criminal acts of terrorism against a civilian population, much like terrorist acts of Timothy McVeigh in blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City, or of Omar Abdel-Rahman in the first effort to blow up the World Trade Center. The criminals responsible for those horrible acts were successfully tried and convicted under our criminal justice system without the need for procedures that altered traditional due process rights.’…Mr. Cole concluded his opinion piece by arguing that in addition to stopping future terrorist attacks, the Attorney General is a criminal prosecutor and that he has a special duty to apply constitutional protections ingrained in our criminal justice system to even including terrorists captured on foreign battlefields. Mr. Cole wrote this opinion piece 2 days short of the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Given the close proximity in time to the September 11 attacks, we must accept this opinion piece as Mr. Cole's true beliefs about the application of the civilian criminal justice system to terrorism cases, including those who masterminded the 9/11 attacks….it appears that if given a choice of prosecuting high-ranking terrorists in civilian courts or military commissions [trials run by the military], Mr. Cole would likely favor civilian courts based upon his longstanding belief in the role that the Attorney General plays in protecting the principles of the criminal justice system.”
The Senate confirmed Cole’s nomination by a vote of 55-42. All 50 Democrats present and 5 Republicans voted “yea.” 42 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate confirmed James Michael Cole to be Deputy Attorney General.