Drew Angerer | Pool | Reuters
The vote was 70-30.
Garland takes over as the head of the Department of Justice as the sprawling agency continues to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, one of the largest probes in its history. Garland has called the inquiry his No. 1 priority.
The Justice Department will also be crucial in enacting Biden’s sweeping plans for civil rights enforcement and criminal justice reform. The department is likely to make important decisions in the coming years concerning regulation of the nation’s largest technology companies, which some lawmakers are pushing to break up.
Garland pledged to defend the independence of the Justice Department during hearings before the judiciary committee last month. Biden has made restoring the traditional distance between the department and political officials at the White House a top priority.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., cheered Garland’s nomination ahead of the vote on Wednesday.
“America can breathe a sigh of relief that we’re finally going to have someone like Merrick Garland leading the Justice Department. Someone with integrity, independence, respect for the rule of law and credibility on both sides of the aisle,” Schumer said from the Senate floor. “He understands that the job of the attorney general is one to protect rule of law, unlike the previous attorneys general under President Trump.”
Before Biden tapped Garland to be attorney general, the centrist lawyer was nominated by former President Barack Obama to a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016 to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans at the time controlled the Senate and refused to hold a hearing on his nomination.
Several other top Justice Department nominees are still being considered by the Senate, including Vanita Gupta, Kristen Clarke and Lisa Monaco. Gupta and Monaco faced questions from senators Tuesday.
Gupta, who led the Justice Department’s civil rights division under Obama, is nominated to become associate attorney general. Clarke is nominated to be the head of the civil rights division. Biden nominated Monaco to be deputy attorney general.
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Read More: Merrick Garland confirmed as U.S. attorney general by Senate