Kristen Clarke Confirmed to Lead Civil Rights Division

The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Kristen Clarke as head of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division. This made her the first colored woman to be confirmed by the Senate.

Their confirmation comes at a time when the Biden government has vowed to revive the division as part of its pledge to fight systemic racism, hate crimes and restrictive voter laws.

Ms. Clarke was largely party-politically confirmed with 51 to 48 votes. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, dropped out of party to support Ms. Clarke’s endorsement. Senator John Kennedy, Republican from Louisiana, did not vote.

Ms. Clarke is the daughter of Jamaican immigrants who emerged from a housing project in Brooklyn to graduate from Harvard and Columbia Law School. She is best known as a leading advocate for the protection of voting rights. Her expertise will make her a key figure in the administration’s efforts to roll back laws that could restrict access to the ballot box.

During her confirmation hearing, Ms. Clarke, 46, said she would use all the tools at her disposal, including the Suffrage Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the Uniformed and Overseas Absent Citizens Voting Act, to ensure that eligible Americans continue to have the right to vote.

Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Ms. Clarke was ready to become the first Senate-approved woman of color to mark the one year anniversary of Mr. Floyd’s murder by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

He said Ms. Clarke’s “broad experience in defending the civil rights of all” made her “particularly qualified to lead this department, especially at this point in history.”

The Civil Rights Division has been involved in some of the Justice Department’s most prominent work under the Biden administration, including the recently announced investigation into police practices in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Louisville, Kentucky, as well as the federal indictment of Justice Department officers who were involved in the murder of George Floyd.

The work of the Civil Rights Division is also likely to be in line with the government’s efforts to contain the domestic terrorism threat, as numerous national security officials have testified that white supremacists are currently the greatest threat posed by domestic extremists.

The Republicans were largely against Ms. Clarke. Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton said she was a partisan and radical candidate who harshly criticized centrists like Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican from Alaska and Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia.

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