Leahy Determined to Move on Holder

Posted December 12, 2008 at 12:12pm

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Friday stood his ground on holding early confirmation hearings for President-elect Barack Obama’s pending nomination of Eric Holder to be the next attorney general, brushing aside warnings from Republicans that speeding up the process could put the nomination in danger.

In a statement released by his office, Leahy argued that the string of Department of Justice scandals that marred the Bush administration made it imperative that the confirmation process proceed quickly.

“This is no ordinary time. Over the last eight years, political manipulation and influence from partisan political operatives in the White House have undercut the Department of Justice in its mission, severely undermined the morale of its career professionals, and shaken public confidence in our Federal justice system. Never has it been more important to have an experienced hand as Attorney General,” Leahy said.

“I hope our Republican members will resist the temptation toward partisanship and join with us to consider this appointment fairly and promptly,” he added.

Leahy has announced plans to begin the nomination process Jan. 8, with an eye toward confirming Holder quickly after Obama is sworn in Jan. 20.

Leahy’s comments come on the heels of a last-minute blitz by Republican members of the Judiciary Committee and the GOP leadership accusing Leahy of attempting to ram through the Holder nomination without adequate time to vet him.

For instance, in a letter to Leahy sent Wednesday, Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) argued that the timetable for the confirmation hearings was neither realistic nor fair and urged Leahy to push back the hearings. “As I look at this matter, it seems to me not realistic or fair to begin hearings before Jan. 26. … To have adequate time to prepare, it seems to me, that needs to be done,” Specter wrote.

Likewise, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, on Friday said the hearings should be pushed back at least a week and warned that the current schedule could make it difficult for Holder to get the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

“He won’t get the 60 votes. It’s improper for Democrats to put this nomination at risk. All we’re asking is to delay it one week. Who wants their staff to be here over the Christmas holiday to go through 28 boxes? I haven’t had an opportunity to personally sit down with him and ask questions. You have do extensive research before you ask questions,” Coburn said.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who also serves on the committee, said Thursday evening that while Republicans do not want to filibuster Holder’s nomination, Leahy must give them more time to review his history.

“There is absolutely no desire on anyone’s part to slow a process down or filibuster,” Kyl said, adding that Republicans are asking “that we be accorded the same consideration that was given to others in this situation and that there be adequate time to confirm him. I see no reason why, if he is qualified, and if he is confirmed, that he could [not] take office very soon after the president himself takes office, perhaps as early as a week or two after that.”