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A Hold on Holder?

Senate judiciary committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., scheduled a confirmation hearing for Eric Holder, President-elect Obama’s choice for attorney general, on Jan. 8. The committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., says that’s too soon. On Dec. 10, Specter urged that the hearing be put off until Jan. 26, citing a need to investigate Holder’s role (while serving as President Clinton’s deputy attorney general) in the 2001 pardon  of Marc Rich and the “alleged—and I emphasize alleged—illegal fundraising by Vice President Albert Gore out of the White House” in 1996. Judging from this document request by Specter and other Republican committee members—see below and the following page—Specter would also like to grill Holder about Clinton-era foreign donations to the Democratic Party; the granting of clemency in 1999 to jailed Puerto Rican nationalists; the 2000 Border Patrol raid in which Elian Gonzales was seized from his Miami relatives so he could be returned to his father in Cuba; the 1993 confrontation in Waco, Texas, between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Branch Davidian sect; and the independent-counsel investigation of and subsequent impeachment proceedings against President Clinton.

Leahy answered Specter’s request with a testy three-page letter (see Pages 3-5) hinting broadly that Specter’s calendar wasn’t too jammed to schedule a 14-day foreign junket prior to the hearing. The Democratic chairman noted that the hearing date had already been changed once to accomodate a planned Republican caucus retreat on Jan. 7. When President Bush named Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, he (Leahy) “did not delay in scheduling that hearing” and “received criticism from my side of the aisle” for moving swiftly. Leahy then recited various other instances in recent history when the judiciary committee moved quickly to confirm various attorney generals. In effect, Leahy was telling Specter: Put a sock in it.

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