In a startling and disappointing vote, seven Democrats joined Senate Republicans to block the confirmation of Debo Adegbile, a voting rights legal expert, to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.1
Pointing to Adegbile’s participation while working for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the filing of a “friend of court” legal brief — along with hundreds of other attorneys — asking that a Pennsylvania Appeals Court commute Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence to life in prison, Republicans embarked on an all-out smear campaign designed to distract from Adegbile’s strong record of defending the freedom to vote.2
There’s still a chance to make this right. At the last moment, Senator Harry Reid cast a procedural ‘no’ vote, leaving the door open for another vote to confirm Adegbile.3
Join us in demanding that Senator Reid call for another vote and for the seven Democratic senators who opposed to reconsider Adegbile’s confirmation. We only need three Senators to change their votes.4 It only takes a moment.
The seven Democrats siding with the Republicans were Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Walsh (D-MT), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Chris Coons (D-DE). In a statement, President Obama called the 47-52 vote “a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”5
By all accounts, Debo Adegbile is the ideal candidate for a role at the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. He is one of the nation’s top civil rights attorneys and the leading expert on voting rights. He has defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court twice — the first time, successfully — and he was the only Black attorney to argue before the Supreme Court last term.6 At a time when right wing legislators across the country are waging all-out war on the right to vote for Black folks, women, the elderly, students, and any other demographic group that might be inclined to vote Democratic, an appointment like Adegbile’s would ensure that there was someone in the Justice Department who knows what’s at stake and will take a principled stand to defend the rights we all cherish, including the freedom to vote.
Thanks and Peace,
— Rashad, Arisha, Matt, Aimée, and the rest of the ColorOfChange team March 6th, 2014
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1. “Democrats help block Obama’s DOJ pick,” Politico, 3-5-14 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3347?t=7&akid=3324.1689899.HV9wvE
2. “The Ugly Campaign To Punish A Civil Rights Lawyer Because He Helped Save A Man From Execution,” ThinkProgress, 2-10-14 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3348?t=9&akid=3324.1689899.HV9wvE
3. “Senate rejects Obama appointment of Debo Adegbile to top civil rights post,” Washington Post, 3-5-14 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3349?t=11&akid=3324.1689899.HV9wvE
4. “Senate Goes ‘Nuclear,’ Changes Nominee Filibuster Rules,” ABC News, 11-21-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3355?t=13&akid=3324.1689899.HV9wvE
5.”Obama Condemns the Senate for Blocking Confirmation of Voting Rights Advocate Adegbile,” PoliticsUSA, 3-5-14 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3350?t=15&akid=3324.1689899.HV9wvE
6. “Justice’s Civil Rights nominee has resume that includes ‘Sesame Street’ and voting rights,” Washington Post, 12-31-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3351?t=17&akid=3324.1689899.HV9wvE