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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski breaks with GOP, helps confirm Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions...
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Murkowski voted Wednesday, April 21 to confirm nominee Vanita Gupta to be associate attorney general of the Justice Department.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)
Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 4:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A key vote from Sen. Lisa Murkowski helped the Senate confirm Vanita Gupta as the new assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday.

The final Senate vote was 51-49, with Murkowski the lone Republican to support President Joe Biden’s nominee for the Justice Department. Gupta will be the first woman of color appointed to the position of assistant attorney general.

Gupta, a civil rights attorney who led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, faced strong opposition from Republicans throughout the confirmation process. They called her a “radical” nominee, citing previous statements by her on social media that were critical of some Republican lawmakers. At the same time, she received letters of support from several law enforcement organizations.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday about her decision to break ranks with the GOP and vote to confirm Gupta, Murkowski said she had a lengthy discussion with the nominee, specifically about issues that face Alaska, including the disproportionate rates of domestic violence and sexual assault experienced by Indigenous women.

“Our Native women experience rates of domestic violence and sexual assault that are shocking, disturbing and wrong,” Murkowski said. “And despite all that we have as a state, the resources that we have, the opportunities that we have, we have not been able to turn the corner as we have needed to in confronting what I believe is a true scourge.”

Murkowski said she felt she was speaking to a woman who had committed her professional life to getting to the base of these kinds of injustices. She noted that Gupta’s confirmation process has been contentious and said she, too, has problems with Gupta’s past statements on social media.

“There are some statements that she has made in some other areas that, in fairness, I find troubling and concerning,” Murkowski said. “And part of my job will be to ensure that she understands clearly how this translates into issues in my state and with our particular issues. But I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to a woman who I believe has demonstrated through her professional career to be deeply, deeply committed to matters of justice.”

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