Martinez Backs Holder for AG

Posted January 16, 2009 at 12:12pm

Republican Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.) on Friday announced his support of Eric Holder’s nomination for attorney general, as the Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up its second day of hearings on the Justice Department pick.

Martinez made the announcement after a morning meeting with Holder, saying he believes Holder is qualified for the post. Holder has spent the last day and half testifying before key Senators, trying to make his case for the installment. While the hearings have been relatively benign, several Republican Senators have taken issue with Holder’s positions on issues like torture and questioned his role in several Clinton-era pardons.

But Martinez, who isn’t on the Judiciary Committee, didn’t appear to share some of his GOP colleagues’ concerns. He called for Republicans to join him in backing the nominee.

“Mr. Holder answered a number of questions to my satisfaction. I have also followed his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Eric Holder understands the unique role of the attorney general, and further, I think he’s qualified to serve in that role. Therefore, I intend to support Mr. Holder’s confirmation and urge my colleagues to do the same,” Martinez said.

Martinez joins a number of other Republicans, most notably Judiciary Committee members Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who have indicated they are likely to vote for Holder’s nomination.

An adviser to Holder on the confirmation process said his camp has been pleased with the level of support that he has gotten, not only from Republicans like former Sens. John Danforth (Mo.) and Asa Hutchinson (Ark.), but also from current members of the Senate.

“We have been gratified by the deep support from former Republican administration officials for this nomination all along and are glad to now see endorsements coming from Republican Senators,” the adviser said.

Friday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, which did not include further testimony from Holder, produced nothing in the way of explosive revelations or partisan fodder that some Republicans had hoped would come from the two days of testimony. The panel heard from a number of witnesses, including former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who spoke in support of Holder’s nomination, as well as a handful of opposition witnesses.

But the testimony and brief question-and-answer period appeared to include nothing that might derail the nomination, and Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wrapped up the hearing in a short two hours.

While Holder’s daylong appearance before the committee Thursday did include its share of fireworks, much of those were between Leahy and ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). Holder not only appeared to hold his own during the scrutiny, but also won praise from some key Republicans, like Hatch.

Although Leahy has announced a vote on Holder’s nomination would take place Wednesday, it is unclear whether that date will hold firm.

Specter has requested hundreds of pages of documents from Holder, the Department of Justice, Illinois state officials and others, and is insisting that he be given time to review the information before a vote. Those requests could prompt Leahy to delay a vote.

Although Leahy has been pushing for a speedy confirmation, he could run into stiff GOP resistance, even from Republicans inclined to support Holder. For instance, Hatch has said he would support giving Specter and others time to review the information before holding a vote.

Likewise, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Friday that he would support Specter’s appeal for more time. “I’ll support Sen. Specter … he’s committed to getting the appropriate information before we vote,” Sessions said.

A staunch conservative, Sessions has been seen as a bellwether for how the Senate GOP would ultimately vote on the nomination. Sessions, who took a largely neutral stance during the Judiciary hearings, has not yet said how he plans to vote.