United States Senator
January 21, 2009
Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The Consideration of Eric H. Holder Jr. To Be Attorney General of the United States
Executive Business Meeting
January 21, 2009
Yesterday we stood witness to history as Barack Obama became our Nation's 44th President. The last several days have been a time of reflection and celebration for all Americans, concluding with the peaceful transfer of power that Senator Feinstein noted is a manifestation of our democracy's enduring strength. Those of us serving on this Committee are among the few accorded the privilege of serving as elected representatives of the people of our states and the Nation. The people are united. We should follow their lead and redouble our efforts to work together and with the new administration to tackle our problems with a shared sense of resolve.
Today our work to help remake America begins. As our President reminded us yesterday: "[T]he challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many." This Committee can help do its part by clearing the way for key members of the national security team to be confirmed by the Senate without delay. The need for leadership at the Department of Justice has never been greater.
President Obama's historic pick of Eric H. Holder Jr. to be the Attorney General has met every fair confirmation standard. In connection with his confirmation hearing, this Committee has received endorsements from more than 130 law enforcement and criminal justice organizations, civil rights organizations, victims' advocates, legal practitioners, bar associations, and current and former public officials, including many who served as high-ranking officials in the Reagan and two Bush Administrations.
When Mr. Holder's hearing began last Thursday in the Senate Caucus Room, Senator John Warner once again showed the bipartisanship leadership that made him a great senator for the past 30 years. He instructed that the problems facing the Department of Justice and the country are so important that we must put aside partisanship and work together. He presented and endorsed Eric H. Holder Jr. to be Attorney General and described his outstanding qualifications, integrity, and independence.
The Committee's two days of hearings on Mr. Holder's nomination ended with a panel of witnesses drawn from the public. These witnesses included Judge Louis Freeh, the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Fran Townsend, until last year Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser to President George W. Bush; Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police; and John Payton, Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. All strongly urged the Committee and the Senate to move quickly to confirm Mr. Holder's nomination.
Over the course of many hours, Mr. Holder answered every question from every Member of this Committee. All Senators were accorded such time as they needed in three extended rounds of questioning to ask whatever they chose. In the time since the hearing, scores of pages of extensive written questions have been sent to Mr. Holder on behalf of Members. One Republican Senator propounded 24 pages of written questions. Mr. Holder responded to those written questions over the inaugural weekend. I am confident he will likewise respond to questions not forwarded to him until today.
Mr. Holder has demonstrated that he is part of change we need to restore the rule of law, "to reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." Having had the opportunity for two months to review his record and having heard his testimony, it is time for this Committee to consider this important nomination. I am more convinced than ever that Eric Holder is a person who will reinvigorate the Department of Justice and serve ably as a key member of the President's national security team. He will pursue the Justice Department's vital missions with skill, integrity, independence and a commitment to the rule of law.
I conclude these brief remarks by thanking our Ranking Republican Member, the senior Senator from Pennsylvania, for consulting with me about proceeding today to consider the President's nomination of Eric H. Holder Jr. to be Attorney General of the United States. I appreciate the hard work and cooperation of all Members of the Committee on this important nomination and their willingness to proceed to its consideration today. Any Senator can delay it, but I hope that no one will. The problems and threats confronting the country are too serious to delay. Acting today to send this nomination to the Senate will be a small but important step in answering the Nation's call for bipartisanship.
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