Senate confirms Perez to DOJ
After months of delay, former Montgomery councilman to lead Obama's civil rights office
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed former Montgomery County Council member Thomas E. Perez as director of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, more than six months after his nomination.
Perez, whose appointment was approved in a 72-22 vote, was nominated March 31, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Perez's nomination on June 4. But two Republican senators had put a hold on several of President Barack Obama's (D) nominees, including Perez.
Perez had served as Maryland's secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation since January 2007, when he was appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley.
On Sept. 22, O'Malley (D) announced Alexander Sanchez, a United Way of America executive, as the new DLLR secretary.
Perez, who turns 48 today, of Takoma Park, served one term on the Montgomery County Council from 2002 to 2006 and was council president in 2005. Perez was a federal prosecutor for about 10 years in the office he now will direct.
"Tom Perez has been an aggressive champion for justice and the public good his entire career," said U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Pikesville, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The Civil Rights Division is our nation's moral conscience and, with Tom's leadership, will again be empowered to take action against those who violate our laws."
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Baltimore said Perez would get the Civil Rights Division "back on track and enforce this country's civil rights laws to combat discrimination, protect minorities and hold violators accountable."
In praising Perez, Mikulski took shots at former Republican governor Robert L. Ehrlich and former president George W. Bush without mentioning them by name.
"As Maryland's secretary of labor, he inherited a department that had been neglected and minimized," Mikulski said. "He quickly took control, re-energized and reinvigorated the Department of Labor, and he will do the same for the Civil Rights Division."
"Under the previous administration, the Civil Rights Division was decimated and caught up in political hirings," Mikulski said. "Civil rights enforcement was put on the back bench and productivity plummeted."