Biden's Justice Department picks for civil rights, environment to face Senate panel

FILE PHOTO: Kristen Clarke, U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee to be assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, speaks as Biden announces his Justice Department nominees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s nominees to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights and environmental units are due to face questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on how they would address racial inequities in policing and climate change.

Kristen Clarke, a former Justice Department civil rights attorney who recently led the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is Biden’s nominee to serve as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

Todd Kim – a former department attorney, former solicitor general for the District of Columbia and onetime contestant on a spinoff of the TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” – is the administration’s pick for assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

If confirmed by the Senate, they will be assuming the posts at a critical time.

The nation has seen a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic, while Republican-led legislatures in some states are advancing bills that critics say would disenfranchise Black voters, and criminal justice reform advocates are urging a wide range of reforms.

“There is no substitute to listening and learning in this work, and I pledge to you that I will bring that to the role if confirmed,” Clarke said in her prepared testimony.

The Biden administration has also vowed to tackle environmental racial justice amid concerns that air and water pollution more often tend to hurt minority communities.

In his prepared testimony, Kim said: “This is a crucial moment for the division and the nation, with the pressing imperatives of enforcing the nation’s environmental laws with integrity … and addressing climate change and environmental justice.”

Clarke’s testimony is expected to dominate the hearing, after right-leaning groups and media began launching attacks against her a month after she was nominated.

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