First things first.
Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black and woman vice president, on Wednesday cast the historic tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm Rachael Rollins as the first-ever Black woman to be U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.
It was a long time coming, too, as Rollins — a progressive prosecutor from Boston who has been serving as Suffolk County District Attorney for nearly the past three years — and her Senate confirmation hearing faced multiple delays amid staunch Republican opposition.
Harris’ vote broke a partisan 50-50 tie as Senate Republicans insisted on branding Rollins as “a radical intent on dismantling the criminal justice system from the inside,” as the Boston Globe put it.
“I’m deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve my community, my Commonwealth and my country as the next United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts,” Rollins said in a brief statement posted to the Suffolk County District Attorney Office’s website.
She added: “I’m incredibly proud of the work every member of my office has done to achieve these goals, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to lead an office of such dedicated, compassionate and talented professionals. I look forward to bringing these data-driven, evidenced-based approaches and a heightened emphasis on culturally competent, trauma-informed victim services to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.”
Typically, nominations to be U.S. attorneys have been routine and uneventful regardless of political affiliation. For comparison’s sake, the previous 27 people who President Joe Biden nominated for the same position in their respective states were all confirmed unanimously. Not so for Rollins, who has been labeled by the likes of right-wing firebrands Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as being “pro-crime” despite evidence to the contrary.
In particular, Senate Republicans have disingenuously pointed to Rollins’ record as well as a past allegation for which she was already formally cleared of any wrongdoing. They have claimed without proof that Rollins and her policies have contributed to the spike in violent crime in the U.S., something they suggested would continue if she is confirmed.
Cotton, in particular, flirted with racist dog-whistling when he claimed Rollins — the first Black woman to be Suffolk County District Attorney — has “radical pro-crime stances” and said she would be better off working in “the public defender’s office.” He announced immediately after Rollins was nominated that he intended to block her path forward.
Not to be outdone, Cruz claimed Rollins “has been vocal and aggressive against prosecuting crime” because she has refused to prosecute low-level crimes, a policy being employed by a growing number of district attorneys around the country.
“If you want to steal a bunch of stuff, this is your person,” Cruz said while trying to peddle the politics of fear.
Senate Republicans opposing Rollins’ nomination had repeatedly pointed to Rollins’ policies, but their selective interest in her nomination was seemingly especially piqued when a white Boston woman claimed she was the victim of the DA’s alleged road rage late last year.
In a police complaint ultimately reviewed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Katie Lawson accused Rollins of threatening her and abusing her power. Lawson’s complaint alleged that Rollins activated her car’s sirens and lights and threatened to issue a ticket during an encounter at a shopping center on Dec. 24, 2020.
Rollins was ultimately cleared by Healey’s office. But Lawson, upon learning of Rollins’ nomination to be U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, contacted Senate Republicans via emails and phone calls urging them to vote against the confirmation.
That is why it took Harris to cast Wednesday’s tie-breaking vote in the Senate, of which she is the president out of the virtue of being U.S. vice president. In less than a year’s time, Harris has cast 14 tie-breaking Senate votes as of Wednesday — the most by a vice president in a single calendar year, according to Bloomberg Government reporter Greg Giroux.
This is America.