“The Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant,” said Obama in a written statement.
“Mr. Adegbile’s qualifications are impeccable,” he continued. “He represents the best of the legal profession, with wide-ranging experience, and the deep respect of those with whom he has worked.”
The Senate voted 47-52, falling short after six Democrats joined every GOP senator present in opposing his selection. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., changed his vote to “nay” to allow him to reintroduce the nomination in the future.
Adegbile’s nomination sparked controversy, with conservatives opposing him over his one-time defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.
Obama cited Adegbile’s support for voting rights legislation and said he was needed at the helm of the Civil Rights Division.
“His unwavering dedication to protecting every American’s civil and Constitutional rights under the law – including voting rights – could not be more important right now,” said Obama.
The Supreme Court last year struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and a number of states are passing new voter ID laws they say are needed to prevent electoral fraud. Democrats counter that the new laws are intended to keep minority voters from the polls.
“Mr. Adegbile’s personal story – rising from adversity to become someone who President Bush’s Solicitor General referred to as one of the nation’s most capable litigators – is a story that proves what America has been and can be for people who work hard and play by the rules,” said Obama.
“As a lawyer, Mr. Adgebile has played by the rules. And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him,” the president added. “The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice – and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant.”