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Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Senate voted 51-48 on Tuesday to confirm longtime civil rights attorney Kristen Clarke to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Why it matters: Clarke is the first Black woman to lead the division, which is responsible for enforcing federal statutes prohibiting discrimination based on race, color and sex.

  • Her confirmation came on the same day as the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, which set off a global reckoning around race and policing.
  • Clarke's nomination was vigorously opposed by Republicans, forcing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to use a rare procedural "discharge petition" to advance her nomination out of the deadlocked Senate Judiciary Committee.

Background: Clarke spent 21 years prosecuting cases at the Justice Department and played a key role in the landmark voting rights case Shelby County v. Holder, according to NPR. While Clarke won her case in lower court, the Supreme Court eventually ruled 5-4 to gut a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

  • She pledged during her confirmation hearing to make voting rights a priority, as Republican-led states across the country push to enact new voting restrictions.
  • The Civil Rights Division will also play a key role in the Justice Department's "pattern or practice" reviews into the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments, following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year.

What they're saying: "As we continue to pursue strong policing reform legislation, the fight for racial justice by confirming Kristen Clarke on the anniversary of George Floyd's murder is particularly poignant and appropriate," Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

  • In a statement to the Washington Post, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called Clarke and Biden's pick for associate attorney general Vanita Gupta "two of the most radical nominees ever put forward for any position in the federal government.”

Go deeper

May 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Rep. Karen Bass: Income inequality is the greatest disparity in justice system

Income inequality affects people's ability to defend themselves and get proper legal representation during criminal trials, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said during an Axios event on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Bass is the lead House negotiator in talks over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House in March but has stalled in the Senate due to Republican opposition to certain provisions, including curbing qualified immunity for police officers.

Scoop: E&C leader talks tech reform with Facebook, Google, Twitter

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The leader of a key House committee discussed legislative proposals on reining in Big Tech content moderation practices with Facebook, Google, Twitter and others Monday, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Lawmakers are working toward making good on their promise to pass new laws to curb tech's power.

George Floyd's family to meet with Pelosi on anniversary of murder

Nancy Pelosi speaking in June 2020 on a police reform bill named after George Floyd. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Members of George Floyd’s family on Tuesday will meet with lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), on the one-year anniversary of Floyd's murder in Minneapolis, CNN and NBC News report.

Why it matters: The meeting comes amid negotiations on a police reform bill named after Floyd that the House passed in March. The legislation has stalled in the Senate due to Republican opposition to certain provisions, including curbing qualified immunity for police officers.