The Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance the nomination of Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s pick for the No. 3 position at the Justice Department, ended in a tie Thursday, but is still likely to advance to a full floor vote.
In a party-line 11-11 vote, the committee deadlocked on advancing the nomination to the full Senate. Her nomination will still receive a floor vote, but it now has to clear an additional procedural hurdle.
Ms. Gupta was nominated to serve as the Justice Department’s associate attorney general. Republicans sought to block her confirmation, saying she’s too progressive and will work against law enforcement.
The committee approved Lisa Monaco, nominated to serve as the deputy attorney general. She also needs to be approved by the full Senate.
While Ms. Monaco received strong bipartisan support, Ms. Gupta was fiercely opposed by the committee’s Republican members.
Ms. Gupta, who previously headed the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, has come under fire for earlier comments suggesting she supports defunding the police and the decriminalization of all drugs.
During a hearing before the same committee earlier this month, Ms. Gupta said she did not support either position.
Republicans, however, countered that she was just telling senators what they wanted to hear to earn confirmation.
“Ms. Gupta has been misleading and deceptive in many of her answers to our questions on many important issues,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.
Last year, Ms. Gupta appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and said it was “critical” that state and local leaders heed calls from progressive groups to “decrease police budgets.” She also called for shifting funds away from public safety toward economic opportunities, health care and other benefits for minority communities.
At her confirmation hearing this month, Ms. Gupta insisted she does not support defunding the police and has advocated for increasing law enforcement resources.
“Any senator who votes to confirm Vanita Gupta is a senator who is voting in favor of defunding the police,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican.
Democrats were quick to point out that Ms. Gupta had earned support from several top conservatives and law enforcement organizations.
The National Fraternal Order of Police, which twice endorsed President Trump, the National Sheriff’s Association, and the International Association of the Chiefs of Police have urged the committee to confirm Ms. Gupta.
“If Ms. Gupta wanted to defund the police, would she have the support of the Fraternal Order of Police?” asked committee Chairman Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat.
“She has the support of law enforcement groups that any one of us would be proud to have and yet she continues to be labeled as soft on crime and there is no truth to that,” he continued.
Republicans also accused Ms. Gupta of shifting her position on the decriminalization of drugs.
As the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy legal director in 2012, Ms. Gupta co-wrote an op-ed calling on states to decriminalize possession of small amounts of “all drugs.”
She disavowed that position at her confirmation hearing, insisting she didn’t support decriminalizing drugs. When pressed by Mr. Cornyn about her editorial, she acknowledged that her views had changed since 2012.
“It is not just about marijuana. She said all drugs — fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, prescription opioids — you name it. She said ‘all drugs’ and then she lied about it to you and me under oath,” Mr. Cornyn said Thursday.
Mr. Durbin argued that Ms. Gupta has a right to shift from a position she took nearly a decade ago and shouldn’t be judged based on one op-ed.
“She simply changed her mind over the years due in part to her own families’ experience with opioid addiction,” he said.