Senate confirms Biden nominee Garland as US attorney general

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The Senate voted to confirm attorney general nominee Merrick Garland on Wednesday, sending the appellate judge on his mission to uphold the integrity of the Justice Department after its actions over the past years threatened to undermine it.

Garland's nomination was widely seen as a redemption after McConnell had blocked his Supreme Court nomination, taking a huge political gamble after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia by saying that the next president should get the pick, not former USA president Barack Obama, who was about to leave office. He was never given a confirmation hearing by Senate Republicans who said Scalia's successor should be picked by the victor of the 2016 presidential election.

"I'm voting to confirm Judge Garland ..." Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) announced that he had placed a hold on the nomination, forcing Democrats to eat up days of floor time.

Garland will also inherit immediate political challenges, including an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden's son, Hunter, and a federal probe into the overseas and business dealings of the former New York City mayor and Trump ally Rudy Giuliani, which stalled a year ago over a dispute about investigative tactics as Trump unsuccessfully sought reelection.

During his confirmation hearing, Mr Garland pledged to restore confidence in the department and protect it from political meddling.

His confirmation also comes amid calls from many Democrats to pursue inquiries into Trump.

Garland is taking over a Justice Department battered by being at the center of recent political scandals, with senators on both sides concerned it has become politicized.

Garland will be under the microscope to see how he works to reestablish the department's independence from the White House.

Garland has stated that he opposes the politicization of the Department of Justice, an issue which Republicans have expressed concern about ever since the Obama administration.

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Those will spark immediate tests that could have far-reaching political repercussions, testing his pledge for independence.

The former federal prosecutor also inherits sensitive ongoing investigations including one involving the new Democratic president's son.

At his confirmation hearing, Garland emphasized his commitment to combating racial discrimination in policing, telling senators that America doesn't "yet have equal justice".

"I intend to make sure that we look more broadly - to look at where this is coming from, what other groups there might be that could raise the same problem in the future and that we protect the American people, and I know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation director made the same commitment", Garland said.

"I intend to make sure that we look more broadly to look at where this is coming from, what other groups there might be that could raise the same problem in the future", he added.

"Merrick Garland, a really fine man", Biden continued.

"I regard my responsibilities with respect to the Civil Rights Division as at the top of my agenda priorities lists".

"I know that these are divisive times, I'm not naive", he said.

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