Specter Announces a Vote for Holder
By Carrie Johnson
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, announced this afternoon that he would vote for Attorney General nominee Eric Holder Jr. after weeks in which the lawmaker advocated for intense vetting of Holder's credentials.
Specter's remarks in the Senate Press Gallery this afternoon come a day before the judiciary panel is scheduled to vote on Holder's nomination, which was delayed for a week at the request of GOP lawmakers on the committee. Specter, who is preparing for what could be a tough Republican primary fight in his home state, had raised questions about Holder's role in a pair of controversial clemency decisions during the Clinton Administration. The lawmaker sent dozens of written questions to Holder, 58, and even met with him privately late last week.
Republican leaders had signaled that Holder's bid to become the first African American to lead the nation's largest law enforcement agency would meet with resistance, confounding Democratic supporters who noted that Holder had broad experience as a former judge, U.S. attorney and second in command at the Justice Department during the Clinton era.
Holder, a partner at the Washington law firm Covington & Burling, already had won support from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.). He has quietly been assembling senior staff members at the Justice Department, which had been demoralized by politicized hiring scandals during the Bush Administration. The department will play a critical role in determining the status of detainees at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in developing new legal guidance on interrogation policy, among other issues.
Key nominees for other Justice posts, including deputy attorney general nominee David Ogden, national security division nominee David Kris, and solicitor general nominee Elena Kagan, had been on hold while the Judiciary Committee deliberated the Holder selection.
Today's support from Specter could ease the path for those nominations and could prompt Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) to soon schedule hearings for those slots, which require approval by the full Senate.
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