Senate panel OKs Holder as attorney general
By Randall Mikkelsen Randall Mikkelsen – 41 mins ago
Former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama's Reuters – Former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to be Attorney General, …
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Senate committee voted to approve Eric Holder to be the first black attorney general, sending his nomination on Wednesday to the full Senate, which is expected to confirm him.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-2 to confirm President Barack Obama's nomination of Holder, a deputy attorney general under former President Bill Clinton. Holder had faced questions over his record, including his support for controversial pardons issued by Clinton, and Republicans had delayed the vote for a week until Wednesday.
"Eric Holder is a good man. He's a decent man. He's a public servant committed to the rule of law and he will be a good attorney general," committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said before the vote.
He said he regretted that "the committee may have stumbled a bit" in delaying the vote.
Holder will play a lead role in the Obama administration's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, which has become an international symbol for U.S. prisoner abuses in the fight against terrorism. He said in his Senate confirmation hearing on January 15 that it would take longer to devise a replacement system that some have hoped.
Two of the committee's eight Republicans voted against Holder. One of them, John Cornyn of Texas, said he had doubts about Holder's judgment, independence, and views on fighting terrorism.
However, the committee's ranking Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, supported Holder's nomination despite expressing earlier concerns.
Holder broke with the Bush administration in his hearings to call the waterboarding interrogation technique "torture." He pledged to protect civil rights and adhere to the Constitution even while fighting terrorism "with every available tool."
He vowed to vigorously fight financial crime and enforce antitrust laws.
Holder also addressed a major criticism by Republicans and acknowledged erring when he supported an 11th-hour pardon by Clinton in 2001 for a fugitive financier, Marc Rich.
"I think it was important that Mr. Holder was willing to admit candidly to his mistake," Specter said.
Cornyn, outlining his opposition, said, "Mr. Holder's actions as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration demonstrate that he should not be confirmed."
Leahy, looking to the full Senate vote, said, "there is no question in my mind that he will be confirmed."
Holder said in his confirmation hearing the Justice Department "must wage an aggressive effort against financial fraud and market manipulation." The collapse of credit markets has triggered widespread criminal fraud investigations of companies and individuals.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)