Just weeks into his administration, President Joe Biden is already creating a rift with fellow Democrats on one particular issue.
Reports indicate that the two U.S. senators from Illinois, both Democrats, are urging the Biden administration to reconsider its decision to fire a U.S. attorney stationed in Chicago.
Senators speak out
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the president has encountered criticism across the political spectrum for his administration’s near eradication of U.S. attorneys appointed during his predecessor’s term in the White House.
While it is common practice for new administrations to consider which attorneys need to go, it is typically a gradual process that includes input from political leaders most directly impacted by those decisions. Biden, on the other hand, opted to almost immediately fire all but two of the U.S. attorneys confirmed under the Trump administration.
Furthermore, senators are less likely to confirm a president’s nominee for U.S. attorney posts without the support of their constituents.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) addressed the issue in a letter this week, advising the president in part that “four years ago a similar action by then-Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions caused my Democratic colleagues to sound the alarm.”
For their parts, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) are particularly displeased with the determination that U.S. Attorney for Chicago John Lausch should be ousted from the position. The senators issued a joint statement that acknowledged their agreement with the general direction of Biden’s “criminal justice agenda.”
“The president has the right”
Nevertheless, they expressed disappointment over the fact that they were not consulted before the White House made the decision to terminate Lausch.
“In 2017, our nonpartisan screening committee gave its support for Mr. Lausch to serve in this position, and the Senate confirmed him unanimously,” they wrote in their letter. “While the president has the right to remove U.S. attorneys, there is precedent for U.S. attorneys in the Northern District of Illinois to remain in office to conclude sensitive investigations.”
For that reason, Durbin and Duckworth concluded that he “should be permitted to continue in his position until his successor is confirmed by the Senate,” adding that they “urge the Biden administration to allow him to do so.”
As for those ongoing investigations, the Free Beacon explained that Lausch is heading up a probe of a major utility provider caught up in a scandal involving payouts to allies of a former state House speaker who had been nominally hired for “no-show jobs.”
It remains to be seen whether the incoming president will back down and allow Lausch to continue his work — at least in the short term.