Senate Republicans are casting a wide net in their efforts to dredge up information that could be damaging to the candidacy of Eric Holder as Attorney General.
In addition to pushing Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to delay the start date of the Holder hearings, GOP officials on the committee also have asked the Justice Department and the Clinton library to hand over large swaths of information relating to virtually every potentially controversial aspect of Holder's time as Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton White House.
Republicans on the committee will thus have more time and information to consider Holder than with any AG nominee in recent history. In the process, they are leaving the impression that they are actively looking to derail the nomination rather than merely examining his qualifications for the post. Leahy suggested as much when he accused Karl Rove of instigating the (unexpected) opposition to Holder. Democratic staffers on the Hill, likewise, are deeply suspicious of the GOP's ploys.
Most telling, however, is that even a Republican Senator on the committee suggested that his colleagues may have overreached in demanding documents that could be beyond their purview.
"I believe Senator Specter is justified in asking that this hearing not start so soon," Senator Jeff Sessions, said recently from the floor. "Members of the committee have sought a bunch of documents. I am not sure they are entitled to all of those documents, but many of them are public record documents that are quite appropriate to be requested. These members have requested those documents and they need to be looked at because there are some questions here that are going to have to be examined."
Session's remarks aside -- the Alabama Republican did not put his name on the letter requesting information from DOJ and the Clinton library -- Republicans seem intent on finding problematic episodes from Holder's biography with which to drag down his nomination. These include requests for information concerning his role in the Elian Gonzalez controversy as well as the controversial pardons that popped up during the waning days of the Clinton years.
But the major tactical victory the GOP scored -- the delay in the hearing -- could prove to be a double-edged sword. In pushing the beginning of Holder's nomination process back to January 15th, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have all but ensured that his candidacy for Attorney General won't come to a Senate vote until after Barack Obama is sworn in. Meaning that, as George W. Bush is, presumably, making his last minute pardons, GOP Senators will be lambasting Holder for his role in the same process during the Clinton years.
As one Democratic aide put it, "How big of a deal can Republicans even make of the Rich pardon if we don't know what Bush is going to do until January?"