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Donnelly joins GOP to block Justice pick

Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana was among eight Democrats who joined Republicans on Wednesday to stall President Barack Obama’s nomination to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

The Senate voted 52-47 against advancing the nomination of Debo Adegbile. Obama issued a statement calling the vote “a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”

As a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Adegbile had represented a man imprisoned for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

Donnelly released a statement saying that Adegbile “is an accomplished civil rights litigator and has a long record of fighting to protect voting rights. I am concerned, however, that strong opposition to his nomination from many in the law enforcement community would undermine his ability to work with state and local law enforcement to carry out the critical mission of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.”

The vote was the first time the Senate has stalled a nominee since Democrats lowered the vote threshold on presidential appointments from 60 to 51 to prevent frequent filibusters.

Other Democrats voting against advancing the nomination were Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and John Walsh of Montana. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also voted no so he can revive the nomination if he wishes.

Forty-four of the Senate’s 45 Republicans, including Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, opposed the nomination, and one GOP member did not vote.