Senate panel deadlocked on Massachusetts US Attorney nominee

BOSTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts has hit a snag as a key U.S. Senate panel deadlocked Thursday over the nomination of Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins as the state’s top federal prosecutor.

The Senate Judiciary Committee split 11-11 along party lines in a vote that followed strenuous objections from Republican members of the panel.

The move forces Democratic leaders to call a vote of the full Senate just to bring the nomination up for consideration. That vote — and then the final vote confirming Rollins’s nomination — would require a simple majority in the evenly split chamber.

Sen. Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, and Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, are among the Republicans leading the opposition to Rollins’ nomination.

On Thursday, Cotton dismissed her as a prosecutor “in name only” with “radical pro-crime stances” while Cruz and other Republicans labelled her “extreme” and “revolutionary.”

But Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who chairs the judiciary committee, complained that Republicans were breaking with a nearly 30-year precedent in forcing a roll call vote on Rollins’ nomination. Some of Biden’s other U.S. Attorney nominees easily cleared the committee last week.

Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, noted the committee received letters in support of Rollins from law enforcement officials, including a number of former Republican U.S. Attorneys for Massachusetts.

Rollins said in a written statement Thursday that she looks forward to the confirmation process going to the full Senate, adding that she’s focused on ensuring Boston “remains one of the very few major cities in the United States where violent crime is down.”

The Democrat has pushed for progressive criminal justice reforms since being elected in 2018 as the first woman of color to serve as district attorney for Boston and some surrounding communities.

A former assistant U.S. attorney in Massachusetts, she’s also been outspoken about the need for police reform in the wake of high-profile killings of people of color by law enforcement across the U.S.

If confirmed by the Senate, she’d become the first Black woman to serve as U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts.