After a debate clouded by how the Justice Department will handle the results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the Senate voted mainly along party lines Thursday to confirm William Barr for the post of Attorney General, as Barr returns to the Justice Department almost 28 years after holding the same position. The Senate vote was 54-45.
“The President made an outstanding choice with Mr. Barr,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD). “He was unanimously confirmed as Attorney General under George H.W. Bush in a Democrat-controlled Senate.”
“We know that he can faithfully execute the duties of the office because he has done it before,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
Only one GOP Senator voted against Barr’s nomination – Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), while three Democrats voted for Barr.
President Trump forced out his original Attorney General, former Sen. Jeff Sessions, just after the November 2018 elections, after months of expressing frustration that Sessions did not do enough to shield Mr. Trump from the Russia probe.
At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the vote a ‘major victory for justice and the rule of law in America.”
In debate on the Senate floor, Democratic Senators repeatedly said that Barr was certainly qualified to again take the job of Attorney General, but most of them focused on Barr’s unsolicited memo to the White House which was critical of the Mueller investigation, as reason enough to oppose the nomination.
“I find Mr. Barr's actions in the months leading up to his nomination to be deeply disturbing,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).
“The President believes William Barr will be an Attorney General who will protect him,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
“Barr's record shows that he is not the Attorney General America desperately needs,” added Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
The Senate vote to confirm Barr filled one Cabinet vacancy for the President – but other major posts in the Trump administration remain unfilled, occupied by officials in an ‘acting’ capacity:
+ Patrick Shanahan is the Acting Secretary of Defense.
+ David Bernhardt is the Acting Secretary of Interior.
+ Andrew Wheeler is the Acting head of the EPA.
+ Jonathan Cohen is the Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
+ Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is Acting White House Chief of Staff.
The vote on Barr Thursday was much different than his first confirmation for Attorney General in November of 1991 – then, the Senate approved him on a voice vote, with no opposition.
Barr joins a very short list of people who have served twice as U.S. Attorney General.
John Crittenden was Attorney General twice in the first half of the 19th century. Richard Thornburgh served one very short stint as an Acting Attorney General, and then later was the Attorney General before Barr for the first President Bush.