WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed James Comey on Monday to become FBI director, elevating the one-time Justice Department official who defied efforts by President George W. Bush's White House to renew a program that allowed warrantless eavesdropping.
Comey was approved 93-1 after one of the Senate's leading conservatives abruptly ended delaying tactics that had blocked a vote on the nomination.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., mentioned as a possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, had been thwarting the vote over his concerns about the FBI's domestic use of drones. Minutes before a showdown vote that seemed likely to force an end to his delays, Paul announced he would allow a vote on Comey, saying he'd received a letter from the FBI that answered his questions about drones.
That letter said the FBI has seldom used drones and cited Supreme Court rulings that the agency said suggested that court warrants are not needed for aerial surveillance.
Paul was the only "no" vote.
President Barack Obama nominated Comey, 52, in June. He will succeed Robert Mueller, who is stepping down in September after 12 years heading the agency.
"In the face of ever-changing threats, he has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to defending America's security and ideals alike," Obama said in a written statement about Comey.
Comey was the Justice Department's No. 2 official from 2003 to 2005 under Bush. He gained attention during a brief stint as acting attorney general in 2004, when he and Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was ill, rejected an effort by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to have Justice renew a program that allowed eavesdropping without court warrants of domestic phone calls and emails.
With the Obama administration under fire following recent revelations about the National Security Agency's collection of records of domestic telephone calls and online communications, that 2004 episode and Comey's credentials of serving under a Republican president helped make him an attractive candidate for the top FBI job.