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Sen. Harkin: Senate Would Have Confirmed Obama's Top Civil Rights Nominee If He Was White

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AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

In a surprise move, the Democratic-led Senate scuttled the nomination of Debo P. Adegbile, who was tapped to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, citing his poor relations with the law enforcement community and his background leading the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. As a lawyer for the NAACP, Adegbile defended a man who was convicted in 1981 of killing a police officer in Philadelphia.

Eight Democrats joined every Republican in voting against advancing his nomination.

Harkin, who is retiring at the end of his term, lamented on the Senate floor that his colleagues had set a "terrible double standard" by voting against Adegbile when they supported the nomination of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who once took on pro-bono work on behalf of a man executed for mass murder.

The transcript via the Huffington Post:

"Here's the message we sent today," Harkin said. "You young people listen up. If you are a young white person and you go to work for a law firm … and that law firm assigns you to a pro bono case to defend someone who killed eight people in cold blood … my advice from this, what happened today, is you should do that … Because if you do that, who knows? You might wind up to be the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.


"However, if you are a young black person and you go to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund … and you're asked to sign an appeal for someone convicted of murder, what the message said today is, 'Don't do it! Don't do it.' Because you know what? If you do that, in keeping with your legal obligations and your profession, you will be denied by the U.S. Senate from being an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice," Harkin said.


"What about that guy sitting over there -- the chief justice of the Supreme Court -- defended a person who killed eight people?" Harkin asked, pointing toward the nearby court building. "Maybe we should institute a -- an impeachment process? Maybe that's what we ought to do. Maybe my friends on the Republican side did not know this about John Roberts, that he had defended a mass murderer. Maybe that's what we've got to do, bring up an impeachment process. Let's impeach the chief justice because he had fulfilled his legal obligation to defend a murderer. Well, I hope that you see the ridiculousness of that argument."

h/t Huffington Post