Eric Holder Jr, US president-elect Barack Obama’s pick for attorney general, brings to his confirmation hearing next week a dream resume and a bull’s-eye target with his picture in the middle.
Holder will get a Republican grilling before the Judiciary Committee next Thursday. Critics challenge his role in former US president Bill Clinton’s pardons while the No. 2 Justice Department official, as well as his failure to recommend an independent investigation of fund raising by former vice president Al Gore.
To conservative Republicans, there’s an even bigger reason to challenge Holder: He’s the liberal face of nominees to come as Obama remakes the federal judiciary and possibly the Supreme Court.
Republicans can use the Holder hearing to prove their credibility as a minority party. The Republican message is: we have enough votes under Senate rules to stop a nomination with a filibuster, so send us centrists, not liberals.
Democrats have their own messages to send in the Holder hearings.
He’ll be the savior of a Justice Department wracked by Republican scandals. He’ll reverse the policies of President George W. Bush’s Justice Department — no more mistreatment of foreign detainees, no waterboarding, no political firings of US attorneys and no warrantless wiretaps of US citizens.
Republican aides, who are not authorized to be quoted by name, said some senators agree with former White House political director Karl Rove that the hearings will lay down a marker.
Rove said Republicans will give special scrutiny to the Holder nomination, especially because of his advisory role in Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich — whose wife was a major Democratic donor.
Rove, the former White House political director, said in a TV interview last month that the nomination is “going to be carefully examined, if for no other reason that people want to lay down markers that that kind of behavior is inappropriate.”
A Senate Republican aide involved in the hearings said in reference to future nominees: “Others will come before the Judiciary Committee and this is the first statement. If we allow ourselves to get rolled here, we’re not doing our jobs.”
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because staff members aren’t authorized to be quoted by name.
Republicans haven’t said they’ll ultimately vote against the nominee and conservative Republican Orrin Hatch recently commented: “I like Eric Holder.”
Holder’s resume uniquely qualifies him to be attorney general. He was a Justice Department prosecutor of corrupt politicians, the US attorney for the District of Columbia, a judge in the nation’s capital and the deputy attorney general under Clinton. He’s now a partner in a major law firm.
But supporters are taking no chances.
Civil rights, anti-poverty and law-enforcement groups who support Holder are holding news conferences with Democratic senators and keeping up a steady stream of endorsement letters to the Judiciary Committee.
At this point, “there’s no evidence of a campaign to stop confirmation,” said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.