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Merrick Garland attended his Senate confirmation hearing for attorney general, nearly five years after he was nominated to the Supreme Court and Republicans blocked his nomination. Garland said civil rights would be a priority under his leadership and he vowed to keep politics out of the Justice Department's work. Kris Van Cleave has the latest.
NORAH ODONNELL: All right. Tonight, Judge Merrick Garland appears to be on his way to Senate confirmation as our nation's attorney general. He says his top priority will be investigating the January 6th Capitol riot. CBS's Kris Van Cleave reports tonight from the Capitol.
- Please stand to be sworn.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Nearly five years after being nominated to the US Supreme Court, Merrick Garland finally got his Senate confirmation hearing today for attorney general. If confirmed, Garland will oversee prosecutions of hundreds charged in relation to the capital attack.
MERRICK GARLAND: This was the most heinous attack on a-- on the Democratic processes that I've ever seen.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: He'd take over a department beset by low morale and under fire from Democrats for decisions made during the Trump administration and from Republicans for its investigation of the Trump administration.
TED CRUZ: You do not view your role as attorney general as being Joe Biden's wingman?
MERRICK GARLAND: I am not the president's lawyer. I am the United States' lawyer.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: After a summer of social unrest following the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer, Garland said civil rights enforcement will be a priority.
MERRICK GARLAND: There's no question that there's disparate treatment in our justice system.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: When speaking of his immigrant grandparents who fled the persecution of Jews abroad, Garland choked up.
MERRICK GARLAND: And I feel an obligation to the country to pay back. And this is the highest, best use of my own set of skills to pay it back.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: President Obama tapped him for the Supreme Court in 2016, but Republicans blocked the nomination. Garland is known as a moderate, a well-respected federal judge who in the '90s led the prosecution of Timothy McVay after the Oklahoma City bombing.
Garland appears headed for confirmation, but President Biden's choice to lead the White House Budget Office Neera Tanden appears to be in real trouble after four moderate senators said they were "no" votes, and tonight, 11 Republican senators are urging the president to withdraw his pick to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. Norah.
NORAH ODONNELL: Kris Van Cleave from inside that hearing room. Kris, thank you so much.