Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says nominees for attorney general are not analogous to nominees for the Supreme Court and shouldn't be treated as such.
Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a statement today responding to comments earlier this week from his committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Speaking on the Senate floor, Specter asked for a delay in the scheduled Jan. 8 confirmation hearing for Eric Holder Jr. to be attorney general.
Specter cited the lengthy preparation leading up to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr. in 2005 and 2006.
"When we had hearings involving Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito, consideration was made of the minority point of view, and extensive discussions were had, and there was an accommodation and agreement reached as to when the hearing was to be held," Specter said. "So we are looking at a serious matter and we have to do it right. It is going to take some time.”
Leahy says that's not the right comparison. According to his statement, the time between the announcement of an attorney general and the start of hearings has averaged 29 days during his three decades in the Senate. The current schedule for Holder allows for 39 days.
"This is not the occasion to convert our consideration of an executive branch nomination into the kind of searching scrutiny we rightly provide for lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court, which is apparently what the Republican side is intent upon doing," Leahy said.
UPDATE: In other nomination news, eight Senate Republicans have sent a letter (pdf) to the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum requesting documents related to Holder. The topics mentioned also came up in a request to the Justice Department this week.