Kristen Clarke, President Biden’s nominee for the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, sat down for her Senate confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee today. If confirmed she will be the first Black woman to lead the division, a development which should be cause for celebration but also reflection on how we allowed such a thing to take so long.
As is the case with every Biden nominee, the Republicans view her hearing not as an opportunity to explore her credentials and qualifications for the important position, but as a chance to attack and smear a surrogate of the president. Given the current national discourse around the treatment of people of color at the hands of the police, this nomination could not be any more important but the GOP would rather play politics than tackle the problems facing this country.
During the Senate proceedings, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR)—the cryptofascist who courted infamy when he suggested sending in American troops to smash the protests that sprang up after the murder of George Floyd—attacked Clarke for saying in the past that police officers should be held accountable for the killing of innocent Black people. Judging by his tone and wording, Cotton seems to believe that a badge should give someone the power to simply murder with impunity.
Clarke patiently explained her positions and said there is a “need for greater police accountability,” a statement which no reasonable person should disagree with after witnessing the past several years of American policing and the litany of tragedies it has visited on communities of color. The way this country approaches law enforcement is deeply broken and unless we begin to fundamentally restructure our assumptions about how police power should work blood will continue to be spilled. State violence should be exceptionally rare, closely scrutinized, and harshly punished when not absolutely unavoidable.
Cotton quickly interrupted Clarke as she was answering his loaded questions and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the chairman of the committee, interjected to tell Cotton to let Clarke finish her answers. The Republican senator promptly lost his cool.
“Could you please stop the pattern of interrupting me repeatedly? This happened the last time we had a hearing and you called a vote in violation of this committee’s rules,” whined Cotton. Obviously, he wouldn’t need to be interrupted if he went about his questioning in a good-faith manner and actually gave nominees time to give full answers.
“I will give you additional time but I’d like to give her a chance to complete her answer,” said Durbin.
“I’ve asked her a simple yes or no question multiple times. She refuses to answer it. Thank you though for your input,” said Cotton, sounding more like a petulant child than a sitting U.S. senator.
Watch the exchange below and remind yourself that Republicans cannot be trusted to perform even their most basic of duties without aggrieved, partisan grandstanding.
Cotton explodes at Dick Durbin after Durbin asks him to allow Clarke to finish her responses pic.twitter.com/Da0PduNtN9
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 14, 2021
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