David Ogden was confirmed Thursday as the second-ranking official at the Justice Department, overcoming opposition by Senate Republicans who objected to his representation of defendants in pornography cases.
Attorney General Eric Holder has been running the Justice Department without top aides, pending the confirmation of Ogden as his deputy and other nominees.
The Senate vote on Ogden was 65-28. The only Democrat to vote against Ogden was Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania.
"I felt it was a scurrilous attack on him," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Leahy, D-Vt., and other supporters said Ogden's legal representation did not reflect his personal views, and they pointed out that Ogden has argued forcefully for protecting children from sexual abuse.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Ogden "is more than just a lawyer who has had a few unsavory clients. He has devoted a substantial part of his career, case after case, for 20 years, in defense of pornography."
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said he was "alarmed" by a nominee for the No. 2 job at the department "who has repeatedly represented the pornography industry and its interests."
During his committee hearing last month, Ogden sought to reassure senators that he would prosecute child pornographers aggressively. He urged the lawmakers not to judge him by arguments he made on behalf of clients.
"Child pornography is abhorrent," Ogden said. Later, he said, "Issues of children and families have always been of great importance to me."
While a lawyer in private practice, Ogden argued on behalf of Playboy and librarians fighting congressionally mandated Internet filtering software.
Leahy said "special interests on the far right have distorted Mr. Ogden's record by focusing only on a narrow sliver of his diverse practice as a litigator that spans more than three decades."
Leahy said that during previous service in the Justice Department, Ogden "aggressively defended" the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act and the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996.