Thomas Perez said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this afternoon that he would keep politics out of his decisions if he is confirmed to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Democrats at the hearing criticized the Civil Rights Division for the politically-motivated hiring of career prosecutors that was orchestrated by Bradley Schlozman, a former acting head of the Civil Rights Division in the Bush administration. Perez, who held various positions within the Civil Rights Division in the 1990s, was praised by the Democrats at the hearing including Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who said Perez will help Attorney General Eric Holder “restore and reinvigorate the Justice Department.”
“If confirmed, one of my primary goals will be to ensure that decision making is depoliticized,” Perez said. “I will work…to restore trust between the career attorneys and the political leadership.”
Perez, however, is not immune from criticism. An anti-gambling group is against his nomination because of a letter he wrote in his current job as the secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation that endorses the legalization of slot machine gambling, The Maryland Gazette reports.
“It gets down to the question if you’re going to be the leading advocate for civil rights in America, how does that square with your role as an advocate for state-sponsored predatory gambling,” Stop Slots Maryland executive director Les Bernal told The Gazette.
While the focus of the standing-room-only hearing was on Perez and circuit court nominees Andre Davis and David Hamilton, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) did point out at the beginning of the hearing that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) was the ranking member at today’s hearing, not Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who said yesterday that he will caucus with the Democrats.
A spokesperson for Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans did not immediately respond to questions regarding which senator is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
We previously reported that Specter, who was a no show at today’s hearing, could be in line to chair a new Judiciary subcommittee. Senate Judiciary Committee spokesperson Erica Chabot declined to comment on the report.