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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) took to the Senate floor Wednesday night to slam fellow senators for what he called their “shameful” vote to block the nomination of a respected civil rights lawyer to a top Justice Department post.

Harkin, who has a law degree, said the vote against Debo Adegbile shows the Senate measures nominees according to race, and suggested the lawyer would have been confirmed as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division if he was white instead of biracial. Adegbile was attacked by senators for heading the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal decades after a death sentence for killing a Philadelphia police officer.

“We sent a message: We have a double standard. A terrible double standard,” Harkin said, pointing out that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts once worked on behalf of a mass murderer.

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