Leahy Buckles, Will Push Back Holder Hearings

01/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

The Senate Judiciary Committee will delay confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Eric Holder after all -- accommodating Republican concerns that the appointment was being rushed and more vetting of Holder's resume was needed.

In an announcement from his Senate office on Monday afternoon, committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said the hearings would be moved back from January 9 to January 15, giving Republicans more than "30 days from today" to consider Holder's qualifications.

"...[T]o accommodate the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, at their request we are delaying the hearing, again, until January 15," read Leahy's statement. "The Assistant Republican Leader said last year that 'attorney general nominees have been confirmed, on average, in approximately three weeks.' Nonetheless, in order to accommodate the Republicans members, I am rescheduling the hearing on Mr. Holder for twice that long, until more than six weeks after his official designation. It is disappointing to me that they are insisting that we delay at a time when the nation needs its top law enforcement officer and national security team in place and working."

Leahy's move is, at the very least, a small tactical victory for Republicans in the Senate. GOP members of the Judiciary Committee protested on the floor that Holder's work in the Clinton White House -- specifically his role in the pardoning of fugitive financier Marc Rich -- required more examination. Their objections were believed to be directed by Karl Rove, who was reportedly organizing the Republican caucus on the issue.

Leahy initially was dismissive of these concerns and seemed committed to confirming Holder on the 9th. That date, he noted, would have given committee members more time to consider the nomination than was granted for past Attorney Generals, including Alberto Gonzales and Janet Reno.

By moving the hearings back to the 15th, Leahy is taking one Republican argument off the table -- the idea that this nomination was somehow being considered in haste. Moreover, if all goes to plan, Holder will be confirmed by the time Obama takes office. But the Vermont Democrat is also signaling that GOP protests, even those driven by the most hyper of partisans (see: Rove), will be considered. He is also offering Republican critics of Holder more time to build their case against the nominee.