The Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon approved the nomination of B. Todd Jones to become permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive over the strong objection of ranking member Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).
The panel approved the nomination in a 10-8 vote after Grassley made a lengthy statement detailing his concerns with Chairman Patrick Leahy’s decision to move forward on the nomination.
“I objected to holding his hearing last month and requested the hearing be postponed,” the Iowa senator said. “Both then and now, there remains an open complaint of whistleblower retaliation against Mr. Jones before the Office of Special Counsel.”
Grassley was referring to an an OSC investigation that Jones allegedly retaliated against a prosecutor in the U.S. Atttorney’s Office for Minnesota, where he has been pulling double duty since August 2011. He and the whistleblower, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Paulsen, have entered into mediation and there is an ongoing dispute between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate panel about whether this constitutes a satisfactory conclusion to the matter.
“It appears the majority is intent on reporting out the nomination, even though the issues are not resolved and despite the concerns we have expressed,” the senator said. “So it seems, at least with this nomination, we are proceeding in a manner that indicates a pre-determined outcome and schedule rather than following the normal committee process.”
In response, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) defended Jones and assailed her Republican colleagues in the Senate for blocking the confirmation of a leader for the agency.
“I think these agents deserve better than not having a director for seven years,” she said. “It’s just wrong.”
Following the vote, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also praised the nominee and hinted that Democrats would make a strong push to confirm his nomination on the Senate floor.
“The president is entitled to his appointments,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re going to have a real donnybrook in this place next week.”
Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on seven of President Barack Obama’s nominees, including Labor Department pick Tom Perez, setting the stage for a potential vote on invoking the nuclear option on Tuesday.
The committee also approved by voice vote the nomination of Stuart Delery to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
The vote scheduled for Todd M. Hughes, deputy director of the Commercial Litigation Branch in the Civil Division, and four others nominated to federal judgeships was held over.