Sen. Murkowski Breaks From GOP to Vote for Biden’s Associate Attorney General Nominee

April 21, 2021 Updated: April 21, 2021

One Republican joined the 50 Democrats to vote in favor of President Joe Biden’s associate attorney general nominee, Vanita Gupta, confirming her nomination with a 51-49 vote.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said from the Senate floor on Wednesday that she had an “extensive” conversation with Gupta, and that she was impressed by her professional credentials and the “passion that she carries with her with the work that she performs.”

All other Republicans voted against Gupta, citing her past comments and positions on abortion, gun rights, law enforcement, and religious liberty.

In her opening statement during her hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in early March, Gupta said she would work to uphold the Constitution and not any partisan agenda.

“If confirmed, I will aggressively ensure that the Justice Department is independent of partisan influence,” she said at the time. “That independence is part of a long tradition, and it is vital to the fair administration of justice and preserving the public’s trust and confidence in our legal system.”

Republicans questioned her past comments, which have been widely viewed as highly partisan.

“Her Twitter feed has painted Republicans with a broad brush, describing our national convention last year as three nights of ‘racism, xenophobia, and outrageous lies,’” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said during his opening remarks.

“Would that kind of partisan political advocacy affect her legal advocacy in a role where she represents all Americans?” Grassley asked.

Murkowski said that Gupta’s past statements were “troubling and concerning,” but she was “going to give the benefit of the doubt to a woman who I believe has demonstrated through her professional career to be deeply, deeply committed to matters of justice.”

Gupta led the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division during President Barack Obama’s second term.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) praised his fellow civil rights lawyer, saying that lawyers can go from being partisan to defending the law.

“So why couldn’t somebody with a civil rights background also be entrusted to take an oath and follow the law and fight for justice,” said Kaine.

Murkowski said that during her exchange with Gupta, they discussed domestic violence among native women in Alaska, an issue the senator said is deeply important to her.

“As we discussed these issues, I felt that I was speaking to a woman who had not only committed a professional life to try to get to the bases of these injustices, to try to not just direct a little bit of money to put a program in place, and walk away and call it a day, but to truly try to make a difference.”

“And so, I will be casting my vote in support of her in about an hour here,” she concluded.

Murkowski has previously broken from her Republican colleagues, notably, when she voted with Democrats to impeach former President Donald Trump earlier this year.