U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Confirmed with Harris Assist (1)

Dec. 8, 2021, 5:50 PMUpdated: Dec. 8, 2021, 8:26 PM

Senate Democrats needed Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote to confirm Rachael Rollins Wednesday as the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts after unusual partisan rancor compared to prior U.S. attorney appointments.

Rollins, currently the chief prosecutor in the county that includes Boston, won confirmation on the slimmest possible tally. The 51-50 split along party lines broke from the Senate’s longstanding less partisan approach to U.S. attorney confirmations.

Harris has been called in as the decisive vote to break ties on the more contentious White House picks throughout the year, given the Senate’s even party split. The vice president returned to the Senate floor following her tiebreaking vote earlier Wednesday to cut off Senate debate on Rollins.

Senators almost always permit expedited confirmation of White House nominees to oversee law enforcement and carry out Justice Department priorities in 94 district offices nationwide.

Led by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), GOP lawmakers have united to oppose Rollins, labeling her as a radical, lax enforcer. Democratic senators have defended her as a well-qualified progressive, who would be the first Black woman to be top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts.

Rollins, as Suffolk County’s district attorney, spearheaded policies to halt prosecutions of low-level crimes, sparking criticism from Republicans who equated her approach with the “defund the police” movement.

Typically, federal prosecutor appointees are confirmed through a process called unanimous consent, which doesn’t require a vote count.

(Updated to reflect Senate's confirmation vote, following earlier procedural vote on Rollins)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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