Laurie Robinson Confirmation Hearing

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The confirmation hearing for Laurie Robinson, Obama’s nominee to serve as the assistant attorney general for justice programs, was short and sweet. That is mostly because only two Senators – Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) – were present for it. JJ Today was there, so a few thoughts:

1) Unless she goes out and commits one of the very felonies she is nominated to help prevent, Robinson is in. She clearly has the confidence of Dems, as a nominee of the party’s leader. Sessions may disagree with Robinson on some law enforcement and judicial strategies – we’d love to know if she agreed with his statement at the hearing that “the predominant factor for the decline in crime” has been locking “a lot of people up for a long time.” But it was clear that he supports her as a nominee and respects her belief that the Office of Justice Programs should focus on supporting strategies that scientifically are proven to work.

When she gets the job is less certain. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez had his day before the committee in April, his nomination was reported to the full Senate in early June, and he was just confirmed by the Senate yesterday because of Republican-imposed delays.

The record on Robinson’s hearing will remain open for another week so that other committee members can submit questions; after that there is no set timetable for her confirmation.

2) Pork opponents take note: You apparently have two allies in Congress in Jeff Sessions and Benjamin Cardin. Both used their back-and-forth with Robinson to pontificate about better uses for the money allocated to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) than the myriad earmarks carved out by appropriators.

“The purpose of the agency is for national benefit,” Cardin said, intimating that simply to dole out money for state projects, there is no need for an entire separate office. “We’re trying make states benefit from other states, share information.”

3) In the latter part of the Q&A, Sessions referred to ideas he has heard from Robinson “on how to improve” the function of OJP, which he described as a lot of small fiefdoms “cobbled together” under the rule of the person in the office Robinson hopes to occupy.

Translation: too many presidential appointees. “That is something that’s been discussed for years” in regard to OJP, said Boys & Girls Clubs of America lobbyist Robbie Callaway, who was there to support Robinson for the position.

There are five Senate-confirmed positions within OJP, but a choice for only one has been announced:

-Director, of National Institute of Justice (John Laub, announced last week)

-Administrator, OJJDP (unfilled)

-Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance (unfilled)

-Director, Office for Victims of Crime (unfilled)

-Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance (unfilled)

Callaway says there is merit to removing the appointee status of some of these jobs, but not at OJJDP. Neither Cardin nor Sessions asked Robinson what she supports, but Sessions’ implication was that she supports some streamlining of the agencies that would report to her.