Last week, the Senate confirmed Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General, the number three position at the Department of Justice. Every Republican Senator except Lisa Murkowski, the Arlen Specter of the Klondike, voted against confirming Gupta.
Had Gupta’s nomination been rejected, the post would very likely have been filled by someone equally radical. However, that nominee probably would have been less vicious and less dishonest than Gupta. That’s the downside of her confirmation.
One upside is the closeness of the vote and the acrimony of the debate. Gupta, age 47, surely has her eye on even loftier jobs than Associate Attorney General. It is now clear that any Democratic administration would face quite a battle getting her confirmed. (Compare the vote on Gupta with the vote on Lisa Monaco, who was confirmed as Deputy Attorney General, the number two spot at DOJ, by a vote of 98-2, with only Sens. Cruz and Paul dissenting.)
We can expect that, if anything, Gupta’s radicalism in office will make the case for confirming her to a higher position even more fraught. This time around, Gupta was able to garner some cover from supine police organizations that figured she would be confirmed and hoped for the best if they backed her nomination. In all likelihood, Gupta will quickly disabuse them of that hope.
For my part, I hope that if the time comes that Gupta is nominated for higher office, Alaska and West Virginia will be represented by conservative Republicans. These are two of the more conservative states in the Union. It’s sad that Senators from these states — Murkowski and Joe Manchin — gave Gupta the votes that put her over the top.
The tactics of Sen. Durbin, the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, in pushing through Gupta’s nomination have produced more bitterness among Republicans than I can recall witnessing in connection with a Democratic nominee. I doubt that Republican members (such as Sen. Cotton whose questioning of Gupta the chairman cut off unceremoniously) will soon forget the way they were treated.
This, too, is an upside of the confirmation battle.
However, we should take no solace from the fact that Gupta reports to Merrick Garland, the Attorney General. For that to be comforting it would have to be the case that (1) Garland is much more than a figurehead at the DOJ and (2) Garland is appreciably more moderate than Gupta.
I doubt that either of these conditions is satisfied, and I’m pretty sure that at least one of them is not.
Garland has already announced that the Biden Administration will initiate an investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department. In addition, he has decided to reverse a Trump-era memo and bring back consent decrees through which left-wing DOJ lawyers can police the police. According to CNN, Garland— “moderate” that he is — previewed the decision in a talk to Al Sharpton’s organization.
With or without Vanita Gupta, the Biden Justice Department will be the most radically left-wing DOJ in American history. Gupta will make a useful symbol (though probably not the only one) of its radicalism.