WASHINGTON — James Comey has been confirmed as the seventh director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation by a vote of 93-1 in the Senate.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., cast the only vote against confirmation. He had placed a hold on Comey’s nomination over the FBI’s use of drones on U.S. soil, but Paul’s office released that hold this afternoon after receiving a response to his concerns from the FBI explaining the use of surveillance drones are used in “very limited circumstances to conduct surveillance when there is a specific operational need.”
“The FBI today responded to my questions on domestic use of surveillance drones by saying that they don’t necessarily need a warrant to deploy this technology. I disagree with this interpretation. However, given the fact that they did respond to my concerns over drone use on U.S. soil, I have decided to release my hold on the pending FBI director nominee,” Paul said in a statement.
Paul was the only senator to vote against Comey’s confirmation, but Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., voted present. Sen. Jeff Chiesa, R-N.J.; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp D-S.D.; Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark.; and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., did not vote.
Comey, 52, a former Justice Department official in the Bush administration, will replace Robert Mueller, who is leaving the agency in September after overseeing the FBI for 12 years.
Before Paul announced his decision to release his hold, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., took to the Senate floor to announce the vote should be “done without delay.”
“It has already taken twice as long than any other previous FBI director,” Leahy said. “Republicans shouldn’t allow politics to play in the confirmation of an FBI director.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa., spoke after Leahy and noted that Comey has bipartisan support, adding the president “has made a fine choice in selecting” Comey, despite his own concerns with the use of surveillance drones.
Obama nominated Comey last month, calling him the “perfect person” to replace outgoing director Mueller.
“To know Jim Comey is also to know his fierce independence and his deep integrity,” Obama said. “He’s that rarity in Washington sometimes: He doesn’t care about politics, he only cares about getting the job done. At key moments, when it’s mattered most, he joined Bob in standing up for what he believed was right.”
In those remarks, Obama mentioned that Comey is known for a tense standoff when serving as acting attorney general in 2004 with White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. The two men visited ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft in his intensive care hospital room to try to obtain reauthorization of the administration’s surveillance program. With Ashcroft in the hospital, Comey was acting attorney general and he refused to sign the order re-authorizing the surveillance program, which was set to expire within a few days. Gonzales, who later became attorney general, and Card went to Ashcroft’s sick bed at George Washington Hospital in an apparent attempt to override Comey’s decision.
“Jim understands that in time of crisis, we aren’t judged solely by how many plots we disrupt or how many criminals we bring to justice; we’re also judged by our commitment to the Constitution that we’ve sworn to defend and to the values and civil liberties that we’ve pledged to protect,” Obama said when nominating Comey.
After leaving the Department of Justice in 2005, Comey worked for Lockheed Martin until 2010. That year, he joined Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut-based hedge fund.
Before serving as deputy attorney general, Comey was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he helped bring down the Gambino crime family, and served as the managing assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Richmond Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
ABC News’ Serena Marshall and Abby Phillip contributed to this report.