President Barack Obama will reportedly name Sally Yates, Georgia’s U.S. Attorney in the state’s Northern District, to be deputy attorney general early this week, a federal official told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Yates will join Loretta Lynch, the president’s pick for attorney general, to lead the federal law enforcement agency—the first time since the mid-1990 two women will potentially run the agency and the first time in history that two U.S. Attorneys have both been promoted to the job.
The gender shift may make headlines, but it shouldn’t surprise—the president has been deliberately bringing gender and racial equality to the judiciary for years. A full 42% of the president’s judgeships have gone to women, nearly doubling the 22% of judgeships his predecessor George W. Bush gave to women, according to The New Yorker. He’s also appointed more minorities than any of his predecessors: Thirty-six percent of his judgeships have gone to minorities, doubling Bush’s minority appointments. Obama says this new makeup “speaks to the larger shifts in our society.”
Yates, 54, was nominated to her post in Georgia and confirmed in early 2010, after two decades as a prosecutor in that office, with a focus on public corruption. She would replace Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who is stepping down in January.
Yates is a vocal proponent of Holder’s policies that aim to lower incarceration rates by cutting jail time for low-level drug offenders, signaling that the president aims to stay the course set by current Attorney General Eric Holder—the last remaining official from the president’s first administration.
It’s a course that could set up a battle in the Senate if conservative senators hold up confirmations over their opposition to the president’s use of prosecutorial discretion to stop deportations of certain undocumented immigrants.
Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have promised as much: To ensure confirmation, the tea partiers promised, Lynch “must demonstrate full and complete commitment to the law … beginning with a statement whether or not she believes the president’s executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal.”