By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON — Some five years after being snubbed for a seat on the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland is the new U.S. attorney general.
In a 70-30 vote Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Garland as the country’s top law enforcer. He becomes the fifth Jewish member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet.
Twenty Republicans joined the Democrats in backing Garland, reflecting consensus support for the federal judge.
In 2016, when Barack Obama tapped Garland for the Supreme Court, Republicans had a Senate majority and refused to consider the nomination despite widespread praise for Garland. As justification, they cited the pending presidential election — a rule that had never been employed. Republicans abandoned that philosophy last year when Donald Trump was president.
Garland, 68, has said his priority at the Justice Department will be tackling extremist violence in light of the Jan. 6 deadly raid on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. Garland came to national prominence when he directed the investigation of the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City carried out by white supremacists.
The Senate has confirmed four other Jewish Biden nominees to the 25-member Cabinet: Janet Yellen to Treasury; Avril Haines to director of National Intelligence; Alejandro Mayorkas to Homeland Security; and Antony Blinken to secretary of state.
Yet to be confirmed is Eric Lander, a geneticist, as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, also is Jewish.