POLITICS
02/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Specter: "I Have An Open Mind" On Holder

After weeks of criticizing Barack Obama's choice for Attorney General, Sen. Arlen Specter may be softening.

"I have an open mind" when it comes to Eric Holder's nomination, the Pennsylvania Republican said outside the Republican Conference lunch on Tuesday.

The remarks come just hours after Specter went on MSNBC's Morning Joe to raise concerns about Holder's role in the pardoning of Marc Rich and his political independence from Obama. The Senator has never explicitly said that he would vote against Holder's nomination, which seems extremely likely to pass through the Judiciary Committee. But his opposition has, critics claim, appeared more politically motivated than based on substantive concerns.

Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy suggested as much when asked about GOP opposition to Holder during a conference call Tuesday. The Vermont Democrat replied:

"Normally I would have just expected this to be an easy nomination because everyone knows Eric Holder and how qualified he is. And after the other side had a unanimous vote for Alberto Gonzales, I thought they might want to redeem themselves with a vote for Eric Holder. But several weeks ago a former official in the Bush White House [Karl Rove] went on the Today Show and said they should go and attack Eric Holder. And a day later or so, they all went out with the same talking points that Mr. Rove had said."