U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton reaffirms his intent to hold up Justice Department nominations

Colleague criticizes Arkansan’s move

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (left), D-Ill., and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., are shown during meetings of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington in these undated file photos. (Left, AP/Susan Walsh; right, Tom Brenner/Pool via AP)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (left), D-Ill., and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., are shown during meetings of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington in these undated file photos. (Left, AP/Susan Walsh; right, Tom Brenner/Pool via AP)


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Tom Cotton this week reaffirmed his efforts to hold up a slate of federal law enforcement nominees, continuing to cite an unrelated issue he has with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Arkansas Republican objected to a unanimous consent request that would have allowed the U.S. Senate to confirm a group of Justice Department nominees.

Cotton "continues to engage in this mindless obstruction, jeopardizing the safety of communities outside of Arkansas for reasons which are still hard to understand," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin during a speech on the chamber floor Wednesday.

Cotton has objected to Justice Department nominees because he says the department is not providing legal representation for multiple deputy U.S. marshals who are being sued over actions they took to defend a courthouse in Portland, Ore., during demonstrations in 2020.

Earlier this year, Cotton pledged to not allow nominees to be fast tracked on the Senate floor until the department agrees to represent the deputy marshals or gives a "satisfactory answer" for why they are not getting legal representation.

Floor arguments on Wednesday come two weeks after Senate Democrats lambasted Cotton, saying the Arkansas Republican was using an unrelated gripe to delay nominees.

"Here we are again two weeks later and nothing's changed," Cotton said on the floor Wednesday. "The Democrats and the Department of Justice, once again, want their well-connected and wealthy political nominees confirmed while the Department of Justice hangs out to dry four career law enforcement officers and threatens them with fiscal ruin and bankruptcy."

A slate of nominees on Wednesday included six U.S. attorney nominees and two U.S. marshal nominees.

U.S. attorneys are the chief federal law enforcement officers in their respective districts and lead offices that prosecute federal crimes in their designated areas. In the role, they can serve as a conduit for executing broader crime-fighting priorities from the Department of Justice.

Apprehending fugitives and protecting the federal judiciary are among the duties of the U.S. Marshals Service.

During a floor speech on Wednesday, Cotton pushed back against arguments from Democrats that he is using an unrelated issue to delay department nominees.

"I'm making a very specific point about this department," he said.

Cotton appeared to acknowledge the limitations of his effort, saying on the floor that he is just one senator and he "can't block these people forever."

The senator stated that he's spoken with former department leaders who said they cannot remember a time when the department declined to represent an officer who was sued over actions in the line of duty.

Durbin argued that Cotton's objections do not have anything to do with the nominees themselves or their qualifications.

"He has made a crusade of this to try to stop these individuals from serving in the states where they're desperately needed," Durbin said. "[The] senator from Arkansas is blocking the confirmation of these individuals, and at the same time calling the Democrats soft on law and order. Go figure."