The Senate made history Wednesday by confirming Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, making her the first woman of color to be confirmed to the number three role at the Justice Department.
Gupta, who has done extensive work for civil rights organizations, previously served in the Justice Department at the end of the Obama presidency, leading its civil rights division.
Her nomination by President Biden to associate attorney general was a chief target of Senate Republicans, who — backed by conservative activist groups — attempted to paint her as an anti-cop radical and accused her of misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee about her stance on drug decriminalization.
Despite the GOP narrative, Gupta has the broad support of the law enforcement community and was endorsed by other prominent figures on the right, such as Grover Norquist.
Nonetheless, her final Senate approval vote Wednesday was 51-49, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) the only Republican to join Democrats to confirm her.
Murkowski, in floor remarks before the vote, cited the conversations she had with Gupta about the “scourge” of domestic violence and sexual assault Native American women faced in her state.
“As we discussed these issues, I felt that I was speaking to a woman who had not only committed a professional life to try to get to the base of these injustices, to try to — not just direct a little bit of money, put a program in place and walk away and call it a day — but to truly try to make a difference,” Murkowski said.
In his remarks about the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial Tuesday night, Biden called on the Senate to confirm her and Kristen Clarke, Biden’s choice to be the head of the civil rights division and another target of right-wing attacks. The two are “eminently qualified, highly respected lawyers who have spent the entire careers fighting to advance racial equity and justice,” the President said. Clarke’s nomination has not yet made it out of the Judiciary Committee.
Not long after the Chauvin verdict came down, the Senate confirmed Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general, which is the second highest role at the department. That vote was 98-2.