Sen. Tom Harkin descends a stairway to the first floor of the Capitol after the senate luncheons.
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Harkin blasts Senate Adegbile vote: ‘We have a double standard’

Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin called out the Senate for judging Obama’s Department of Justice nominee Debo Adegbile by “a terrible double standard” Wednesday, after the body failed to approve his nomination amid controversy over Adegbile’s prior work with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, in which he appealed the case of a man convicted in 1982 for murdering a Philadelphia police officer. 

“Earlier today a vote was taken in the United States Senate that, to this Senator, marked about the lowest point that I think this Senate has descended into in my 30 years here,” Harkin began.

“Here’s the message we sent today,” Harkin said.

If you are a young white person, and you go to work for a law firm … and that law firm assigns you to a pro-bono case to defend someone who killed eight people in cold blood … my advice from what happened today is you should do that. It’s part of your legal obligation, part of your procession. Because if you do that, who knows, you might wind up to be the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

However, if you are a young black person, and you go to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and they assign you under your obligations as an attorney in keeping with your oath of office, they assign you to appeal a case of someone who committed a heinous murder … the message sent today is don’t do it. Don’t do it. Because you know what, if you do that, in keeping with your legal obligations and your profession, you will be denied by the U.S. Senate from being an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.” 

Harkin was referencing Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ work representing a Florida death row inmate convicted of eight murders. 

In a vote Harkin called “shameful,” the Senate rejected Adegbile’s nomination 52-47, with 40 Republicans and seven Democrats opposing.  

“We sent a message we have a double standard – a terrible double standard,” Harkin said.  

Watch his floor speech here: 

Civil Rights and Justice Department

Harkin blasts Senate Adegbile vote: 'We have a double standard'