Eight Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined Republicans in a vote to block President Obama's nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
"[Adegbile's] nomination was adamantly and vocally opposed by conservatives due to his participation in an appeal filed on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal -- an internationally-known prisoner convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner."
The Senate vote was 47-52 against Adegbile's nomination.
It marks the first Obama administration nominee to be rejected under new Senate rules approved in November requiring only a simple majority to move such nominations ahead.
"Adegbile previously worked for the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, which worked in support of Abu-Jamal's efforts to overturn his death sentence."
"That past led both of Pennsylvania's senators — including Democrat Bob Casey — to oppose Adegbile's nomination. Republicans spent much of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning on the Senate floor criticizing the assistant AG choice pointedly for his work with Abu-Jamal."
"'He decided to join a political cause ... and in my view, by doing so he demonstrated his own contempt for — and frankly a willingness to undermine — the criminal justice system of the United States,' said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). 'I do not believe that Mr. Adegbile's nomination is consistent with justice for the family of officer Danny Faulkner or for anyone else that cares about the law enforcement community.'"
Update at 4:50 p.m. ET:
The president said in a statement that the Senate's failure to confirm Adegbile is "a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.
"Mr. Adegbile's qualifications are impeccable," Obama said in the statement. "He represents the best of the legal profession, with wide-ranging experience, and the deep respect of those with whom he has worked."
"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 – and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant," the president said.