WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's choice to run criminal tax prosecutions will not get a quick confirmation vote due to an unrelated dispute involving the Justice Department, a senior senator said on Thursday.
Republican Senator Charles Grassley said the department is preventing congressional investigators from speaking with department staff about a failed gun-smuggling sting known as "Operation Fast and Furious."
Grassley has previously held up other nominees to try to leverage cooperation from the department. He said he would do the same with Kathryn Keneally, nominated in September for assistant attorney general for tax, though he supports her.
"Because of lack of cooperation I'm getting from the Department of Justice on investigations, I can't commit to moving forward with her nomination on the Senate floor," Grassley said at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.
Keneally, a partner at the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski in New York, won the backing of the committee in a voice vote on Thursday. She now needs a vote by the full Senate to be confirmed. Under Senate rules, an objection from one senator can delay a vote on a nomination.
The Justice Department's Tax Division has had acting heads for three years, since its previous Senate-confirmed leader left for private law practice. Obama's first nominee, Mary Smith, failed after Republican complaints that she had no experience in tax law.
The division prosecutes cases of alleged criminal violations of U.S. tax law, including offshore tax evasion.
Grassley cited lack of cooperation from the Justice Department on Wednesday when he called for the resignation of Lanny Breuer, another assistant attorney general. Grassley is the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican.
(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Xavier Briand)