Senate Approves Two Key Justice Department Nominees

Posted March 12, 2009 at 2:53pm

The Senate easily confirmed two key Justice Department appointees on Thursday, voting 65-28 to confirm David Ogden as deputy attorney general and 72-20 to install Thomas J. Perrelli as associate attorney general.

Ogden’s decisive vote comes despite Republican concerns over his past representation of the adult entertainment industry. Those critics seemed to soften their rhetoric, however, after Judiciary Committee ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) voiced his support for Ogden in a floor statement Wednesday.

“The deputy attorney general, while important, is not a lifetime appointment as a judge,— Specter pointed out. “I had a call from the attorney general, who raised the issue that he does not have any deputies and the Department of Justice. [It] is a big, important department, and we ought to give appropriate latitude to President Obama and appropriate latitude to Attorney General Holder and move ahead with Mr. Ogden’s confirmation.—

Ogden, who was former Attorney General Janet Reno’s chief of staff and was most recently a partner at the law firm Wilmer Hale, cleared the Judiciary Committee 14-5 last month.

The Senate also confirmed Perrelli on Thursday to be associate attorney general, the number three position in the Justice Department.

Perrelli held several posts in the Justice Department under the Clinton Administration, and he is the managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office of Jenner & Block.

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee approved on a voice vote the nomination of Ron Kirk to be the United States Trade Representative. Kirk appeared before the panel on Tuesday for his confirmation hearing, and he enjoyed a warm reception. His nomination could be taken up by the full Senate as soon as next week.

The Finance Committee still must consider the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) as secretary of Health and Humans Services.

Sebelius must testify before the Finance Committee and also the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee before the full Senate can vote on her nomination. With the backing of the Jayhawk state’s two GOP Senators — Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts — she is likely to have a smooth ride to HHS.

The Commerce Committee has yet to schedule a hearing for Commerce Department appointee, former Washington Gov. Gary Locke (D), who, like Sebelius, has been working the Senate halls as he gears up for his confirmation.