After months of Republican blocking behind the scenes, Tom Perez has finally been confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. The restoration of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department after its virtual decimation during the administration of George W. Bush has been among the highest priorities of Attorney General Eric Holder, and is among the most urgent concerns of civil rights groups.

Perez was nominated by President Obama in March, but had been left in limbo by Republicans, who refused to move the nomination forward. Perez was considered an uber-qualified candidate by civil rights groups. He was most recently the Secretary of Labor and Licensing for the State of Maryland, and before that served as a law professor at University of Maryland Law School and president of the Montgomery County Council in Maryland. But he cut his teeth as a civil rights lawyer in the Clinton Administration, where he served as Director of the Office of Civil Rights for the Department of Health and Human Services and as a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

His confirmation (by a vote of 77-22) was not without Republican shenanigans. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who is impervious to either embarrassment or shame, reportedly expressed his concern that decisions in the 10-month old Holder-led Civil Rights division were being made based on "politics."

Sessions said he also feared that Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and the highest ranking Latino in Maryland government, shared the "extreme" views of Casa de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group whose board he once headed.

Sessions said that he was "a little nervous" that Perez had described himself as "a progressive Democrat" when he ran for the Montgomery County Council earlier in this decade.

Given the wholesale politicization of the Justice Dept during the Bush (II) years -- remember Monica Goodling and Bradley Scholtman's hiring memos, or the Attorney General firing scandal -- you have to concede that Sessions is nothing if not bold. It's apparently anger at current efforts to reverse some of the Bush-era civil rights jurisprudence that has been behind months of Republican stalling on the Perez nomination.

Now that Perez can actually begin his job overseeing Civil Rights, let's hope that the taint and remnants of Goodling, Scholtzman and the "loyal Bushies" (Goodling's term for her kind of people) that corrupted the reputation and work of the division will be removed from the important work of this key agent at the Justice Department.

--SHERRILYN A. IFILL