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Marylander Perez may soon take Civil Rights helm at Justice

Thomas E. Perez, the Martin O'Malley cabinet member whose nomination for a top Obama administration post has been blocked by Republicans, may soon be able to make his move to Washington.

Senate sources report that Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, has agreed to schedule a cloture vote on Perez's confirmation as head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.

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No date has been set, and at least two other blocked nominees are ahead of Perez, the state's Labor secretary. But the decision means that the Marylander should finally see his nomination brought to a vote soon by the full Senate, perhaps before the month is out.

Republicans have employed parliamentary devices to delay action on Perez, even though his nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary in early June on a bipartisan vote of 17-2.Since then, however, he's gone nowhere. Senate holds on nominations are shrouded in secrecy, but a Republican source pointed to Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma as the responsible party.

Coburn's office did not respond to requests for comment. However, confirmation fights are common when it comes to the top civil rights job at Justice, one of the most difficult positions for presidents of either party to fill because of the issues involved.

One issue that came up after Perez gained Judiciary committee approval involves an administration decision to drop a civil complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party, who were accused of intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last November. At least one House Republican, Rep. Lamar S. Smith of Texas, urged his Senate colleagues to place a hold on Perez' nomination until the Justice department provided Congress with more information about the Philadelphia case.

President Barack Obama nominated Perez for the Justice post six months ago. The Maryland lawyer's involvement with CASA de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group, has provoked some opposition from Republicans.

However, with Democrats firmly in control in the Senate, his confirmation is a virtual certainty, once cloture is invoked, which would end the Republican delay.

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