Senate Confirms Vanita Gupta To Civil Rights Post Despite GOP Attacks
Reprinted with permission from DailyKos
After months of Republican attacks, Vanita Gupta was confirmed Wednesday afternoon as associate attorney general. Vice President Kamala Harris was available to break a tie, but Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted to advance Gupta's nomination to a full Senate vote earlier in the day, then followed up in making it a 51 to 49 vote to confirm. Gupta is the first woman of color and the first civil rights lawyer in this role.
Gupta is eminently qualified: She headed the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division under then-President Barack Obama and is the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. But she's a woman of color who has focused her career on civil rights, which means Republicans see her as an enemy.
Gupta has been the target of nearly $1 million in attack ads by the far-right Judicial Crisis Network, and a group of Republican state attorneys general also attacked her, focusing on her work in the Obama Justice Department heading up investigations of police departments after white officers killed Black people. Those attacks came despite glowing endorsements from many law enforcement leaders. "She always worked with us to find common ground even when that seemed impossible," wrote the head of the nation's largest police union.
At her confirmation hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) sneeringly attacked Gupta for having the nerve to believe that implicit bias is a real thing, trying to turn it around on her by asking: "Against which races do you harbor racial bias?" Cotton also claimed that Gupta supports "decriminalization of all drugs," which she does not, and that she had misled the Senate Judiciary Committee about her stance on decriminalization, which she had not.
The Republican attacks weren't done there. On Wednesday, as the Senate moved toward a vote on Gupta's nomination, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell painted Gupta as having "a record of astoundingly radical positions." The notoriously dishonest McConnell also assailed Gupta's honesty, charging: "She's levied attacks on members of this body, and during the confirmation process, she employed the loosest possible interpretation of her oath to deliver honest testimony." The attacks on Gupta's truthfulness come essentially because she said that she would represent the Biden administration's positions, as she has in the past represented other organizations, be it the Obama Justice Department or the ACLU. This is a standard position for a nominee to take, but when it comes from a woman of color, it's portrayed as a character issue.
Gupta is far from the only woman of color whose confirmation has run into ferocious Republican attacks in recent months. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first American Indian Cabinet member ever, was likewise described as a "radical" during her confirmation process, of which former Sens. Tom Udall and Mark Udall noted, "Were either of us the nominee to lead the Interior Department, we doubt that anyone would be threatening to hold up the nomination or wage a scorched earth campaign warning about 'radical' ideas."
Many of the same Republicans who managed not to hear about any of Donald Trump's most outrageous tweets for four years were extremely well-informed about every strongly worded tweet ever to come from former Office of Management and Budget nominee Neera Tanden. Her nomination was ultimately sunk by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, ostensibly over those tweets, though Manchin had voted to confirm full-on misogynist Twitter troll Richard Grenell as ambassador to Germany under Trump.
Most recently, Republicans pulled out pretty much the same playbook on Kristen Clarke, Biden's nominee to head the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, that they tried on Gupta: She's a radical who cares about civil rights—how dare she! In fact, she's the real racist, whether because she wrote a satire of The Bell Curve as a college student or has called for accountability in police killings of civilians.
If Republicans were distributing their venom equally across Biden's nominees, you'd say, well, they just hate all Democrats. But that's not what's happening here. There's a very clear pattern of especially fierce, personal opposition to women of color, and it doesn't seem like Senate Republicans mind how obvious it is, either.
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