GOP leaders took to the Senate floor this evening to call on Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to slow down Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder’s confirmation process.
They got a boost from Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who, as a former U.S. Attorney and Rhode Island attorney general, commands respect in the Senate on legal matters.
Leahy has proposed hearings as early as Jan. 8 with the goal of confirming Holder on Inauguration day or very shortly thereafter.
“As the junior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’m certainly in no position to speak for the chairman,” Whitehouse said, nevertheless suggesting “that the timing be done on a reasonable basis.”
Over the past 30 years, Whitehouse noted, the average time between a presidential announcement of a nominee and the first hearing has been 29 days and the time until a committee vote has been 37 days. Holder's nomination was announced Dec. 1.
Earlier this week, Leahy said that he wanted Holder confirmed with such speed so that he could walk into the Department of Justice after Barack Obama is sworn in and announce: “Okay, justice is back."
Kyl and Senate Republicans, however, say there is still much to be known about Holder’s record at the White House and his involvement with the Clinton presidential library, among other things. They say more than 100 boxes of documents related to Holder are in the possession of the committee stemming from pardon hearings in 2001. When the GOP controlled the Senate, then-Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) held hearings to look into President Clinton’s last-minute pardons, some of which – such as the one for fugitive financier Marc Rich -- Holder signed off on.
“Nobody is talking about a long, long, long delay,” said Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). “We do ask that we be accorded the same consideration that was given to others in this situation and that there be adequate time to confirm him.” The Senate took four days of hearings, he noted, to confirm John Ashcroft, a former senator.
Specter, now the ranking minority member on the committee, also called for a deliberate process.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) seconded Specter. “I understand the Judiciary Committee has a large number of boxes of archived documents relating to his employment at the Justice Department and those materials need to be reviewed,” he said. "We haven’t even gotten Mr. Holder’s questionnaire, nomination materials or F.B.I. background investigation yet.”