Tom Cotton, upset by George Floyd protests, is now holding up Biden's nominees to the DOJ

Cotton demands Department of Justice honor U.S. marshalls who defended a federal courthouse in Portland in 2020

By Jon Skolnik

Published February 17, 2022 6:48PM (EST)

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is slow-walking the confirmations of multiple nominees for U.S attorney over a local clash between Portland protesters and U.S. marshals during the George Floyd protests back in the summer of 2020, according to The Detroit News. 

Cotton formally objected to their confirmations during a Wednesday Senate hearing, demanding that the Justice Department pay the legal bills over four U.S. marshals who were sued by Portland protesters injured during the protests. 

"I'm sorry if your lawyers have to wait for a week or two to get confirmed to the U.S. attorney's position," Cotton said. "I'm worried about four heroes who defended federal property from left-wing street militias. So yeah, I will object."

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Cotton further asked for a "satisfactory, fact-based" as to why the department won't represent the marshals. 

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"Maybe some of my Democratic colleagues could call (Attorney General) Merrick Garland or Vinita Gupta and ask them for such an answer," the Arkansas senator continued. "Or maybe just call them and say, 'Why don't you represent these four marshals?' That seems like an obvious, satisfactory outcome for everyone here."

In one exchange Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durban, D-Ill., pointed out that Cotton, who is staunchly pro-law enforcement, was actually holding up a confirmation process that would make law enforcement run more smoothly.

"Try to follow that logic, if you will. The senator is so committed to law enforcement, he is so committed to U.S. marshals, he won't let us appoint people to fill vacancies," Durbin said. "Why are we in such a hurry? We're in the second year of this president's administration. It's time to fill these vacancies."

Senator Catherine Marie Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, likewise called Cotton's position "nonsensical."

"He can't continue to use the same talking point that he's defending law enforcement, when at the same time, he's harming law enforcement across the country," she said. 

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In the hearing, Cotton also called out the Democrats for backing the 2018 First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill designed to reduce the federal prison population. The bill was, however, passed by numerous Republican senators during the Trump administration. 

Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Blak Lives Matter Department Of Justice Doj Federal Courthouse George Floyd Protests Portland Tom Cotton