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Congresswoman Joyce Beatty

Representing the 3rd District of Ohio

Black Caucus backs Biden's pick to head DOJ Civil Rights Division

Mar 9, 2021
News Articles

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Tuesday expressed support for Kristen Clarke, President Biden's pick to be the Justice Department's next assistant attorney general for civil rights.

"Kristen Clarke is abundantly qualified, talented and brilliant. She has dedicated her life to civil rights work and has a unique understanding of its importance," CBC Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) told The Hill in a statement. "She is the right person for the role, and the time is now."

Clarke would be the first Black woman to lead the influential DOJ wing, and has extensive background in civil rights litigation, having previously worked for the division as a trial attorney at the beginning of the 2000s.

Since then, she has served as head of the civil rights bureau of the New York state attorney general's office, and is now the president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The CBC noted that it doesn't currently expect Clarke's nomination to come under any heavy scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee or other lawmakers, though Clarke's past was brought up during the Senate confirmation hearing of Merrick Garland, Biden's attorney general nominee.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) questioned Garland about Clarke's views on anti-Semitism. As president of Harvard's Black Students Association in 1994, Clarke accepted an offer from author Tony Martin to come and speak out against the racially incendiary book "The Bell Curve." 

However, much of Martin's work has been criticized as anti-Semitic.

"Giving someone like him a platform, it's not something I would do again," Clarke told The Forward in January. "I unequivocally denounce anti-Semitism."

Garland, who is Jewish, dismissed Lee's line of questioning, saying, "I'm a pretty good judge of what an anti-Semite is, and I do not believe that she is an anti-Semite. And I do not believe she is discriminatory in any sense."

Beatty's backing of Clarke coincided with the Senate confirmation hearing for two of Biden's other DOJ nominees - Vanita Gupta and Lisa Monaco.

Gupta, who led the Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, was grilled by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearing, forcing her to apologize for comments she made about the Trump administration.

"I regret the harsh rhetoric I have used at times in the last several years," she told the committee. "I think perhaps the rhetoric has gotten harsh over the past several years and I have fallen prey to it.

GOP members of the panel also needled Gupta on her opinion of defunding the police; she soundly rebuked the idea that she supports the movement. Gupta has garnered support from police unions and conservatives since being picked by Biden in January.

If confirmed, Monaco would be elevated to the No. 2 position at the DOJ, Gupta the No. 3 position.

This article was published by The Hill on March 9, 2021.