Democrats cite U.S. security in pushing Justice job nominee

May 9, 2011

By Sean Lengell-The Washington Times

With a key test vote in the Senate on Monday, Democrats are playing the national security card in their push to get the No. 2 man at the Justice Department confirmed.

Democrats argue that acting Deputy Attorney General James Cole, whom President Obama wants named to the post permanently, needs full congressional backing if the treasure trove of intelligence from Osama bin Laden’s killing can be fully put to use.

“There’s a heightened need for him now, given all the new work that’s going to come forward,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

Mr. Schumer specifically stressed the need for a permanent deputy attorney general to help sign off on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders – a key anti-terrorism tool that allows U.S. intelligenceagencies to conduct physical and electronic surveillance of terrorist suspects.

Only three Justice officials – the attorney general, the deputy attorney general and the head of the National Security Division – can sign FISA orders.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who testified at the Wednesday hearing, also appealed to the Senate to quickly confirm Mr. Cole, who oversees the department’s day-to-day operations.

“We need to have our team in place, and we need to have some degree of permanence,” Mr. Holder said.

Mr. Obama sidestepped the Senate to directly appoint Mr. Cole – whose nomination had been stalled for months – when the Senate was on recess in late December.

Because Mr. Cole is a so-called “recess appointment,” his term will expire at the end of the year unless confirmed by the full Senate.

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