WASHINGTON, D.C. - By just after noon Pacific time, the U.S. Senate had confirmed the nominations of David Ogden to be Deputy Attorney General, and of Thomas Perrelli to be an associate attorney general and the third highest-ranking official at the Department of Justice (DOJ), after a nearly two-hour "discussion" marked by quorum calls that left the Senate chamber silent for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
Both candidates have had their share of controversy; Ogden for representing clients who opposed the legislation that led to the 2257 regulations, opposed parental notification for teens' abortions and correctly noted that abortion causes women no psychological harm; and Perrelli for having represented Michael Schiavo in his attempt to end the extraordinary measures being taken to keep alive the body of his brain-dead wife Terri.
Ogden was confirmed by a vote of 65-28, even though, as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) noted, that nomination was vehemently opposed by "letters from pro-life organizations including the Pennsylvania Family Institutes, International Right to Life Federation, the Family Research Council, National Right To life Committee and Eagle [Forum]."
That opposition was not well received by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), whose committee sent Ogden's nomination to the full Senate on a 14-5 vote.
"David Ogden has been strongly supported by Republicans and Democrats, those who served in the Bush administration and other administrations," Leahy declared. "I felt it was a scurrilous attack on him and his firm for having supported libraries, supported perfectly legal publications and some Republicans saying they couldn't vote for him because of that. I note these same Republicans all voted for Michael Mukasey, a fine gentleman, the Attorney General, who listed as one of his primary cases his representation of the TV talent Kerry's (ph.) Dial-A-Porn."
Criticizing the apparent hypocrisy of Republicans defaming Ogden for his advocacy of free speech positions while giving Mukasey a pass for his own free speech representation, Leahy said, "I hope we will avoid in future such double standards."
Also decrying the attacks on Ogden by conservative religious organizations, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) lambasted those groups for claiming that Ogden would not strictly enforce child pornography laws.
"It's an appalling statement," he charged. "The major organizations that are concerned about the welfare of our children in this country support David Ogden."
Perrelli's hearing, on the other hand, was much shorter, with Leahy announcing that he understood there to be bipartisan support for limited discussion of the candidate - much less than the two hours previously allotted - and for a voice vote. Leahy himself spoke briefly in favor of the nomination, and the only opposition was voiced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who said he thought the Senate should carefully consider whether Perrelli would in fact be a good advocate for "all human life."
"I have no doubt of the qualifications of Mr. Perrelli to be associate attorney general," Brownback said, noting however that, "Concerns have been raised ... primarily due to his pro bono representation of Terri Schiavo's husband Michael Schiavo and his effort to allow the starvation to take place and the dehydration of his wife, whose death took place several years ago... You're certainly entitled to food and water even if you're in a difficult mental condition."
Brownback deliberately avoided any reference to the fact that Terri Schiavo's autopsy revealed that her brain had largely turned to mush, and had probably been in that state for several years before her life support was terminated. And the fact that the Schiavo case seemed to be Brownback's sole criterion for concern about Perrelli's nomination led Leahy to observe, "I do not believe that Mr. Perrelli is a right-to-die advocate."
In the end, Perrelli was confirmed 72-20.