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7 Dems abandon Obama nominee

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:02 p.m.
Some Democrats from the Senate’s majority joined Republicans in voting against Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
Some Democrats from the Senate’s majority joined Republicans in voting against Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

WASHINGTON — Seven of President Obama's Democrats in the Senate broke ranks on Wednesday and joined Republicans to block Obama's nominee to a top Justice Department job amid complaints that the lawyer, Debo Adegbile, had helped represent a “cop killer.”

The seven voted with 44 Republicans to sustain a procedural roadblock against the nomination of Adegbile, a former director at the Legal Defense Fund of the civil rights group NAACP, to head the Justice Department's civil rights division.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined the seven fellow Democrats in a maneuver to preserve his right to bring up the nomination again. The final vote was 47 for and 52 against, with 51 votes needed for the nomination to proceed.

The vote was a tough one for Democrats, many of who face challenges in elections in November and are leery of allowing themelves to be portrayed as soft on crime.

“Today is a good day for Pennsylvania, for America and for those who believe in justice,”said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County. “I appreciate the bipartisan support of my colleagues — including Senators Casey, Coons and Manchin — and from Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams in opposing the confirmation of Mr. Adegbile.”

It was the first time an Obama pick has been blocked in the Senate since Democrats changed the rules last year to strip Republicans of their power to stop a nominee on their own.

The Fraternal Order of Police helped rally opposition against Adegbile, calling Obama's selection of him “a thumb in the eye of law enforcement.”

Civil rights groups backed Adegbile, calling him “a tireless advocate,” and “a skilled litigator” who was well qualified for the job.

Obama, in a White House statement, called the Senate action “a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”

“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,” Obama said.

Other backers said Adegbile should not be punished for his limited role in the Mumia Abu-Jamal case, who was sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

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