Seven Democratic senators voted with Republicans, rejecting a motion to end debate on the nomination of Debo P. Adegbile as head of the Justice Department's division of civil rights, Roll Call reported.
Adegbile's nomination was controversial because, as head of the National Association of Colored People's Legal Defense Fund he was indirectly involved in representing Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Adegbile's nomination a "thumb in the eye of our law enforcement officers," The Hill reported. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pointed out that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, nominated by President George W. Bush and approved by Republicans, had represented a killer of eight people.
Adegbile was the first Obama nominee to fail since Democrats changed the rules on closing debate to require a simple majority. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and John Walsh of Montana all sided with Republicans, giving them a 52-47 majority.
Reid originally voted to close debate but changed his vote to give him the option to reopen the nomination.