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Public Statements

Nomination Of Eric Holder

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I appreciate my colleague and his informed words. Much of what he has stated I agree with, but there is a significant difference. No. 1 is I was not in the Senate when Mr. Holder was confirmed. Given the facts that played out associated with pardons that President Clinton had, the look needs to be refreshed without any question because there is no question that Mr. Holder erred in his judgment and has essentially said so, in association with one Mr. Marc Rich, a fugitive.

I do not doubt Mr. Holder has a distinguished record. He is well qualified for lots of areas. I do not think it ought to be on the floor that we debate whether we have a hearing. But I can tell you that the information we have requested, both from the Clinton libraries and others, will not be available to us to peruse and to study. I may in fact in the long term end up voting for Mr. Holder, but I am not about to do anything less than a very thorough job.

I also remind my colleagues I was the first Republican Senator in the midst of the committee to call for the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales--rightly so. The position of Attorney General, although it is appointed by the President, is very different than all the rest of the appointments because he is for all of us, every citizen in this country, the chief law enforcement officer of this land. His loyalty is not to the President. His loyalty has to be to the Constitution. It has to be to the responsible bodies that guide this country, although if we in fact have hearings early, we will have to have additional hearings. We will not allow a vote to occur until we have thoroughly, to each member of the Judiciary Committee's satisfaction, had the record examined and had the questions answered that are going to need to be answered with regard to some of the events that have taken place late in the Clinton administration.

That is not to cast any aspersions on Mr. Holder. I think he is a fine man. But judgment is the key thing that is most important and there is a red flag. So if it is insisted that we go early, earlier than we are prepared so we can truly ask the questions we think the country would need us to ask, then I think we will have a difficult time ever moving that nomination.

That should not be the case. The fact is this gentleman deserves the best, the most thorough opportunity to explain himself in a way where people are asking proper questions, not improper questions. More important, the American people deserve for us to do our job. That means we have to be very well briefed, very well studied on the questions and circumstances about which we will apply them.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. COBURN. I will be happy to in a moment.

I have given positive comments to the press on Mr. Holder, so I am not necessarily someone in opposition. But I can tell you I am in opposition to not being in a position to do my job. It is going to be impossible, and I will tell my colleague that, with the schedule that has been set forth. I will not be able to be prepared at the time. I have one staff lawyer. For us to go through everything to my satisfaction, for me to fulfill my oath, that is not a possibility between now and January 9.

The other thing I would say is much of the information we have requested is not even going to be available to us until January 6. So it would be terrible to start the next Congress off having a fight about a fight. My hope is we can come to a compromise so we all feel very well prepared.

There is no intent to delay Mr. Holder's nomination. There is every intent to make sure we are prepared to thoroughly vet his qualifications of independence and judgment. It is not his qualifications as to whether he has the capability to fulfill the role. It is whether he will demonstrate the independence and the judgment with which to fulfill it.

As my colleague knows--he was at the hearing when I asked the Attorney General to resign--I am not a partisan. The President-elect who nominated this man I have a great deal of respect for. But I am going to do my job. If it means holding up a nomination until I get all the answers, then that is what I
will do. So there is no reason for us to do that by not accommodating the ranking member on this committee and setting the schedule with which the minority on that committee are not prepared to be prepared to answer that.

With that, I am happy to yield to my colleague.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I appreciate that very much. I thank the Senator from Oklahoma for his courtesy for yielding.

I wanted to make sure the distinguished Senator was not suggesting that when the Senate allowed 26 days between Attorney General Reno's announcement and her nomination hearing, or allowed 25 days between Attorney General Ashcroft's announcement and his nomination hearing, or allowed 30 days between Attorney General Mukasey's announcement and his nomination hearing that the Senate was then underprepared or had not done its job in evaluating, or didn't have enough time to evaluate those candidates. I think they probably did. They appeared to going forward. By comparison, the 39 days----

Mr. COBURN. Reclaiming my time----

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. If I could finish the question----

Mr. COBURN. I suggest we did a poor job with Attorney General Gonzales, that is No. 1. No. 2, I was not here then so I don't know whether we did or did not. Mukasey--the difference that would lie is there is a large red flag on one or two specific actions of this gentleman as he acted as assistant Attorney General. That requires good scrutiny.

I assure my colleague that does not mean, and I think he knows this--I have not made a decision on this gentleman and I will not until we have gone through the hearing process. As I have said to the press, I am generally inclined to think he is very well qualified for this. But the question of judgment will require a lot of research on associated issues that have been outlined here.

So, to me, it is not a game I am playing. I think my colleagues in the Senate know I work very hard to stay informed and up to detail on every issue that is before us. I would say to my colleague, to me, I don't care what the time was ever. What I care about is do we do it right so we do not have a repeat.

I am sure my colleague knows he doesn't want us to have a repeat of making a mistake and not thoroughly vetting someone to the degree we should.

My hope is the Judiciary Committee in the next Congress operates very smoothly, that we stand on the principles that we spoke about as we went through this last year, and that we do not see the process of trying to slow down judicial appointments because it is a partisan issue.

He has my pledge that will never be anything I will pertain to or participate in. If somebody is qualified and they are this President's nominee and they are qualified after going through the Judiciary Committee and I believe they should be voted on, I intend to vote for them and not hold them up. But I think this is a very different instance. There are two specific problems that have to be very well vetted.

From what we have seen so far, the vast majority and minority have not met Mr. Holder. We are going to be asked to meet with him on the day before the committee hearing so we will not have had the time even after we meet with him to be able to cross-check what we have asked him against what facts we know because we will not have all the facts in, because we will not even have all the records from the Clinton library at that time.

I suggest we ought to start it off in more of a spirit of cooperation. My ranking member is of the learned opinion for the years that he has been here, and he is a proven expert in the law, that we need more time. We hope that request would be honored.

With that, I yield the floor.

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