The Senate dealt an embarrassing setback to President Obama when several politically vulnerable Democrats defected to help Republicans defeat the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the Washington Post reports. The nomination had revived the racially charged legacy of the murder of a Philadelphia police officer more than three decades ago — a case in which, long after the trial, Adegbile played a small role. The vote exposed the anxiety facing many red-state Democratic senators as the midterm elections approach. Seven Democrats joined with Republicans in blocking a final vote on the nomination, the largest number of Democrats to vote against an Obama nominee.
Adegbile's ties to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an internationally known prisoner convicted of the 1981 murder of officer Daniel Faulkner, had become the focus of a conservative crusade that boiled over in recent weeks. A senior aide to one of the senators who voted against the nominee said several senators' offices were “very angry” at the White House for moving ahead with the nomination even though it could leave Democrats who are facing tough reelection races vulnerable to attack ads. Administration officials pushed back, saying Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had assured them Adegbile would survive the vote.