Partisan Flare-Up Over Pace Of Holder Hearings

December 12, 2008 12:30 p.m.

We told you Wednesday about the developing fight over the pace of confirmation for Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s nominee for Attorney General. And it looks like it’s heating up.

Politico reports that several Senate GOPers took the floor of the chamber last night to agree with Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary committee, who has argued that the January 8th start date for confirmation hearings, set by Democrats, doesn’t allow for enough time to scrutinize Holder’s record — in particular his role in the controversial pardon of Marc Rich in the last days of the Clinton administration.

Minority Whip Jon Kyl said:

Nobody is talking about a long, long, long delay. 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.

And another Senate Republican, Charles Grassley, agreed:

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. We haven’t even gotten Mr. Holder’s questionnaire, nomination materials or F.B.I. background investigation yet.

But Democrats fired back in support of Pat Leahy, the Judiciary chair who’s pushing to begin hearings quickly.

Sheldon Whitehouse, who sits on the Judiciary committee, argued that the schedule was not out of keeping with precedent. He said that the average time between a presidential announcement of a nominee and the first hearing has been 29 days. If the Holder hearings began January 8th, that would be 38 days after the nomination was announced on December 1st.

And now Leahy himself has issued a lengthy statement reiterating his desire to stick to the January 8th start date.

Leahy argues that the politicization of the department under Bush makes it especially crucial to move quickly:

This is no ordinary time. Over the last eight years, political manipulation and influence from partisan political operatives in the White House have undercut the Department of Justice in its mission, severely undermined the morale of its career professionals, and shaken public confidence in our Federal justice system. Never has it been more important to have an experienced hand as Attorney General. I hope our Republican members will resist the temptation toward partisanship and join with us to consider this appointment fairly and promptly.

Leahy even dredges up an old quote from a Senate Republican, from last year when GOPers were pushing for quick hearings on President Bush’s nominee, Michael Mukasey. “Attorney general nominees have been confirmed, on average, in approximately three weeks, with some being confirmed more quickly,” said one Republican at the time, according to Leahy.

Late Update: More on that quote from last year, just dredged up today by Pat Leahy, in which a Senate Republican argues for a quick confirmation for Bush AG nominee Michael Mukasey. Turns out the quote was from none other than Jon Kyl, who now is stressing the dangers of a quick process for Holder. Thanks to reader CR for the tip.

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