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J.D. Vance blocks U.S. attorney nominees as part of pointless effort

As J.D. Vance blocks U.S. attorney nominees, the Ohio Republican appears to be engaged in a partisan tantrum with no real purpose.


It was nearly four months ago when Sen. J.D. Vance announced his intention to block Justice Department nominees. It’s not that the Ohio Republican had a problem with the individuals’ qualifications, but rather, the senator said he was doing this to protest Donald Trump’s indictments.

“I think that we have to grind this department to a halt,” Vance said, referring to federal law enforcement.

Some hoped that the rookie senator would eventually settle down and take a more responsible approach. As The New Republic noted yesterday, that hasn’t yet happened. Two qualified U.S. attorney nominees came to the floor; Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin tried to confirm them by way of unanimous consent; and Vance balked.

“I object to this because we are living in a banana republic where the president is using his Department of Justice to go after his chief political rival, the person he will appear on the ballot with, in about a year,” Vance said on Wednesday. ... “If the Department of Justice will use these nominations for law instead of politics, I am happy to end this whole policy,” Vance added.

The GOP lawmaker didn’t have anything meaningful to say about the nominees themselves — Ohio’s Rebecca Lutzko and Illinois’ April Perry — just as Vance didn’t have especially good reasons to stand in the way of other nominated U.S. attorneys.

“On five previous occasions, I’ve come to the floor of the Senate to request unanimous consent to move these nominees forward. Each time, the junior senator from Ohio has objected,” Durbin said after the Republican’s move. “He campaigned for the Senate claiming he would be ‘tough on crime,’ but now that he’s here, he proudly brags that he wants to ‘grind the Department of Justice to a halt.’ These communities desperately need these nominees in place.”

As we’ve discussed, procedural tactics like these are not uncommon in the chamber, though members usually take such steps in pursuit of specific goals. If a senator is frustrated that the Department of the Commerce, for example, hasn’t provided him or her with a sought-after report, a member might temporarily delay departmental nominees until the document is sent to Capitol Hill.

The practice, in other words, tends to be goal-oriented.

But that’s what makes Vance’s efforts so notable: He appears to be engaged in a partisan tantrum with no real purpose.

The Ohioan’s stated rationale is impossible to take seriously. President Joe Biden isn’t responsible for prosecuting Trump — though if Vance believes such a dynamic reflects a “banana republic,” I’d love to let the senator know about what transpired in 2020, when Trump tried to use the Justice Department to actually go after his chief political rival.

Vance said on the Senate floor that he’s concerned about the Department of Justice using U.S. attorneys for political ends. Does he have any evidence of U.S. attorneys being used improperly? No. Have any U.S. attorneys indicted the former president? No. Is there anything to suggest these particular nominated prosecutors have overtly political backgrounds? No.

All of which is to say, there just isn’t any point to the Republican’s stunt. He’s undermining federal law enforcement for no reason. He’s achieving no goals. He’s not even asking for a ransom.

Literally no one benefits from Vance’s tantrum, except maybe criminal suspects in Ohio and Illinois.