This vote was on confirming Thomas John Perrelli to be associate attorney general, the third in power in the Justice Department.
Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said he has no doubt that Perrelli is qualified for the job and a fine lawyer. However, he said he has concerns with the fact that Perrelli will be able to formulate Justice Department policy given some of his past actions. He said Perrelli represented, pro bono, Terri Schiavo's husband Michael Schiavo. The Schiavo case took center stage for some time while Terri Schiavo's family and her estranged husband fought over whether she should be taken off life support or not. Terri Schiavo, who was in a persistent vegetative state, was eventually taken off life support at the urging of her husband Michael, and against the wishes of her family.
"Mr. Perrelli was pro bono, representing for free, Michael Schiavo, in this case, who was the primary proponent to withhold food and water for Terri Schiavo. I think before we put a person who took that position--he did this for free--into the No. 3 position at the Justice Department of the United States, we should discuss that because people are policy and what they view and what they stand for does find its way into policy apparatus for the United States of America," Brownback said. "There is a fundamental policy question, as I mentioned a bit earlier, about this, and that is the basic issue of, do we view human life sacred, per se, or does the dignity that we treat individuals with depend on their physical or mental status as human beings?" Brownback said. He added that Perrelli’s involvement calls into question Perrelli’s stance on similar policy topics, such as euthanasia.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Brownback's position is unfair. He said Perrelli is not a "right to die" advocate, and the position he represented on Michael Schiavo's behalf was not extreme.
"Mr. Perrelli did not become involved in the Schiavo litigation to further any personal or political agenda and did not become involved in the litigation when the issue was Ms. Schiavo's wishes. In fact, he did not become involved in the case until after the Florida State courts had fully and finally litigated the question of Ms. Schiavo's wishes and her medical condition. Mr. Perrelli's concern was for an unprecedented challenge to the judicial process. He argued that the Florida Legislature passed a law that imposed one set of rules on Ms. Schiavo and a different set of rules on everyone else in Florida. And he was proven right, when the Florida Supreme Court unanimously struck down the law taking the decisions out of the hands of the family and giving them to the Governor," Leahy said.
By a vote of 72-20, the Senate voted to confirm Perrelli. Every Democrat present voted for confirmation. OfRepublicans present, 17 voted for confirmation and 20 voted against. The end result is that Thomas Perrelli was confirmed as associated attorney general at the Justice Department.