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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

Updated Aug 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Texas House advances voting bill that Democrats fled state to protest

The Texas state Capitol is shown during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Texas House Republicans gave final approval to a slate of new voting restrictions on Friday following months of protests by Democrats, including a 38-day walkout, the Texas Tribune reports.

Why it matters: Friday's vote brings Texas one step closer to enacting voting restrictions — making it set to be the latest big Republican state to pass tighter voting laws following the 2020 election, per AP.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Tesla delays Cybertruck until 2023

Tesla debuts the Cybertruck in Hawthorne, Calif., on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla is at risk of falling behind on one of the most critical products in the American auto industry: pickups.

Why it matters: Pickups are the most profitable segment in the business and account for the first, second and third best-selling vehicles in the country. Without a serious pickup strategy, Tesla could miss out on a huge source of future income.

Defense taking steps to mitigate civilian harm after botched airstrikes

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on Sept. 1, 2021. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a directive Thursday to improve the U.S. military's approach to civilian harm mitigation and response, calling it a "strategic and a moral imperative."

Why it matters: The Pentagon has faced criticism for years for amassing civilian casualties in its missions, especially in the Middle East. New York Times investigations have found systemic failures in efforts to prevent civilian deaths, as well as a cover-up of a 2019 airstrike that killed dozens of women and children in Syria.