Republicans have delayed for one week a committee vote on Eric Holder Jr.'s nomination to be attorney general, giving them extra time to pore over Holder’s long record and force him to answer questions in writing about policies he would pursue at the Department of Justice.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), ranking GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, requested the delay on behalf of the eight other GOP members. They met this morning, Specter said, and “there was a unanimous view that there has been insufficient time to question Mr. Holder.”
Under committee rules, the request for a delay was granted automatically.
Holder testified Jan. 15 for more than seven hours before the committee, though several Republicans said they had to cut their questioning short. They have submitted follow-up questions in writing—in one case, 24 pages of questions, said Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The committee is planning to release those questions and Holder’s answers later today, a spokeswoman says.
At a brief committee meeting this afternoon, Leahy expressed frustration at the delay. He cited the Justice Department’s growing role in national security, and he noted that Holder has been the apparent choice of President Barack Obama since mid-November.
“We’ve had the opportunity for two months to consider his record. Two months!” Leahy said.
Specter responded that Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) questioned Alberto Gonzales, then the nominee to be attorney general, for almost an hour—longer than any senator has had to question Holder. He also said Kennedy requested one-week delays for Gonzales and John Ashcroft when they were nominees.
“There are many questions that I have not had a chance to ask Mr. Holder,” Specter said.
Asked by reporters what questions he is asking Holder, Specter said he wants to know more about Holder’s views on national security, on detainee policies, and on investigating corporate fraud. He also said that former Bush adviser Frances Townsend disclosed in written testimony that she called Holder on the morning of Jan. 20, 2001, about a possible pardon for fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich—what Specter described as a previously undisclosed conversation.
Holder and Specter are scheduled to meet privately Thursday.
Click here for Legal Times’ Twitter feed of today’s short hearing.