The US Senate would go through a rare procedure to discharge a nomination from the judiciary committee for Indian-American lawyer Vanita Gupta to serve as Associate Attorney General, a senior lawmaker said on Thursday.
If confirmed, Ms Gupta, 46, would be the first woman of colour to serve as Associate Attorney General, which is the third-ranking official at the powerful Department of Justice.
Senate Majority Leader senator Chuck Schumer had to file this rare motion of discharge because the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 25 voted her nomination 11-11. The discharge motion would allow a full Senate vote on her nomination.
“This afternoon, the Senate will need to go through a rare procedure to discharge a nomination from the Judiciary Committee… Miss Vanita Gupta to serve as Associate Attorney General,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
“The daughter of immigrants from India, Miss Gupta is the first woman of coloru to ever be nominated for Associate Attorney General, the third-ranking official at the Department of Justice. Her public track record is nothing short of exemplary,” Schumer said before a bitterly divided Senate.
Given that the 100-member Senate is equally divided among Republicans and the Democrats with 50 seats each, the ruling party now depends on Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie in favour of Ms Gupta.
Later in the day, Schumer is expected to make a motion to proceed to Executive Session in order to move to discharge the nomination of Gupta to be Associate Attorney General from the Committee on the Judiciary and the Senate will proceed to a roll call vote relative to that motion.
There will then be up to four hours of debate on the motion to discharge the Gupta nomination from the Committee on the Judiciary. The Senate will proceed to a roll call vote on the motion to discharge the Gupta nomination from the Committee on the Judiciary.
Schumer said Ms Gupta will make an outstanding Associate Attorney General. The Senate should discharge her nomination from the Judiciary Committee this afternoon, he said.
“In her very first case after law school, Ms Gupta won the release of several African-Americans who had been wrongly convicted by all-white juries in Texas, clients who eventually won a pardon from Texas Governor Rick Perry. She continued her work at the ACLU, where she launched a bipartisan criminal justice reform effort, before going on to lead the civil rights division of the Justice Department under President Obama,” the senator said.
Schumer rued that despite her sterling credentials, some Republicans on the Judiciary Committee would have them believe that Ms Gupta is some hair-raising, left-wing radical.
“In her hearing, Gupta was unfortunately subjected to a mind-numbingly repetitious line of questioning about whether or not she supports the police or wants to decriminalise all drugs. A conservative judicial organisation launched a national ad campaign to smear her nomination. It was disgraceful,” Schumer said.
In a statement, Wade Henderson – interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights urged the Senate to confirm the nomination of Gupta.
“Vanita Gupta is exactly the leader we need in this role at this critical moment for our country. Now is not the time for baseless and harmful partisan tactics. With broad support that crosses ideological divides, Gupta is a consensus builder who will bring vital civil rights and racial justice experience to the Justice Department. The country needs Ms Gupta and her experience in this important role now, and the Senate must take swift and immediate action to confirm her,” Henderson added.