WASHINGTON – The Senate rounded out the Bush Cabinet Wednesday, finally confirming John Walters as the nation's new "Drug Czar" with a unanimous voice vote.
"Mr. Walters will begin his tenure as 'drug czar' at a very precarious time, but I know he is the right person for this challenge," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a statement.
Walters' nomination to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy generated much opposition from leading Senate Democrats. Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the appointment 14-5, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., former chairmen Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Joseph Biden, D-Del., opposing Walters.
Walters was highly critical of former President Clinton's drug policies. He attacked the administration's anti-narcotics advertising campaigns and advocated severe prison sentences for marijuana smugglers and repeat offenders.
Walters served as acting White House drug policy director in 1993, but quit when Clinton announced a reorientation of anti-narcotics policy that de-emphasized law enforcement and interdiction.
The White House increased pressure on the Senate to approve Walters to complete the Cabinet, Reuters reported Thursday.
"Mr. Walters is eminently qualified," said Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "I am confident that he will be a first-rate director."
Walters worked in the drug control policy office during George H.W. Bush's administration from 1989 to 1992. He has served as president of the Philanthropy Roundtable, a group that helps charitable organizations and drug prevention and treatment efforts, since 1996.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.