[JURIST] US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] on Monday told reporters that confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Eric Holder [professional profile] would begin in January, as soon as the Senate reconvenes. Leahy, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website], met privately with Holder on Monday. Leahy hopes for a confirmation vote [The Hill report] as soon as President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated on January 20. Leahy said [press conference transcript and video]:
[Holder] will have a mandate to rebuild morale and public confidence in the Justice Department. That has to be his top priority. And Eric Holders extensive experience and knowledge of the Department will serve him well as he restores confidence to a great Justice Department. I will consult with our ranking republican then schedule his confirmation hearings promptly.Leahy then escorted Holder to a three-day meeting with Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], the committee's ranking republican.
Obama officially announced his nomination of Holder [JURIST report] last week. Holder served as Deputy US Attorney General [archive materials] during the Clinton administration. Republicans have criticized [JURIST report] Holder for his role in the 2001 pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich [Time backgrounder]. If confirmed by the Senate, Holder would be the first African-American to lead the Justice Department.