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President Joe Biden’s Associate Attorney General nominee Vanita Gupta has been facing intense opposition for many her political ideas and stance.
Her position is termed to be the third-highest in the Department of Justice.
On Thursday, March 25, the Senate Judiciary Committee came to a deadlock in a party-line vote. However, her confirmation is still on track with the expected support of moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The committee voted 11-11 along party lines in a tie vote. The tie vote was not seen as a setback for Gupta, because her nomination can proceed to the floor of the full Senate, which Democrats control. However, it will face an additional procedural hurdle before the Senate can formally vote to confirm her.
This means that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to take procedural steps to advance her nomination to the Senate floor.
“Her public record is too extreme and her testimony hasn’t helped me contextualize it in any meaningful way,” ranking Republican Charles Grassley said on Thursday prior to the vote.
Gupta, who previously headed the civil rights division during the Obama administration, fiercely criticized former President Donald Trump when she headed the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights advocacy group.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark, was one of many Republicans who delivered speeches illustrating why they were against Gupta’s nomination. He referred to testimony she delivered in the past, in which she stated that all Americans held implicit biases and racial biases.
Cotton said that during her confirmation hearing he asked who she held biases against, and she responded by noting that there are stereotypes she holds but said everyone can manage these biases if they acknowledge them.
Republicans have vocally opposed Gupta’s nomination. They pressed her over previous tweets critical of Republicans and accused her of being an “extreme partisan advocate” at a contentious confirmation hearing earlier this month.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, raised concerns over Gupta’s financial interests, noting her millions of dollars of stock in Avantor, a company that, according to a Bloomberg report, sold acetic anhydride to Mexican drug cartels, which then used the substance to manufacture high-grade “china white” heroin and methamphetamine.
At the meeting, Cornyn displayed a jug of acetic anhydride that he said held enough of it to make millions of dollars’ worth of heroin.
The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that’s pushed to confirm conservative judges, launched an advertising campaign to try to sink Gupta’s nomination.
Gupta, who led the Justice Department civil rights division in the Obama administration, apologized at the hearing for her tweets, saying she wished she could take back her harsh rhetoric. She touted the support her nomination received from numerous law enforcement groups, including the National Fraternal Order of Police and the National Sheriff’s Association.
“I regret the harsh rhetoric that I have used at times in the last several years,” Gupta said. “I can pledge to you today that if I am confirmed, you won’t be hearing that kind of rhetoric from me.”
Democrats responded that Gupta made her position on drugs at the hearing clear, saying her position had evolved over the past decade and she does not support legalizing all drugs. Durbin accused Republicans of distorting her views on issues like defunding the police.
“I’m struggling to understand the fierce opposition of the Republicans to this nominee,” Durbin said. “She has the support of law enforcement groups any one of us would be proud to have, and yet she continues to be labeled as soft on crime or wanting to defund police, and there’s no truth to that whatsoever.”
Gupta is only the latest nominee to face a tie committee vote, where the 50-50 split prompted an even number of Democrats and Republicans on the committees. The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday deadlocked 13-13 on the Colin Kahl’s nomination to be Pentagon policy chief, but his nomination is also on track thanks to the support of Manchin.