President Obama formally announced the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week. Filling the position ordinarily poses a political challenge, but installing Holder’s successor will be particularly rancorous. And we have Eric Holder himself to thank for that.
With Congressional midterm elections weeks away, confirmation hearings for a new AG any time soon seemed unlikely at first. However, Senator Patrick Leahy (D – VT), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that he intends to urge the confirmation process onward. “Definitely, we should have confirmation hearings as quickly as possible in the Senate,” Leahy told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Changes to Senate rules allow debate to end over executive and judicial branch nominees (except for nominees for Supreme Court vacancies) with a simple majority vote, rather than a supermajority of 60 votes. At least until the January 2015 session, when the Senate can revisit the rule change, Senators cannot filibuster the vote on Eric Holder’s potential successor. No matter what shifts occur after the upcoming elections, Republicans hold only 45 seats in the Senate until January 2015. So, Democrats acting quickly hold an advantage. However, Democratic senators facing dicey election contests may not be enthusiastic about their party’s push for hearings before the election.
The AG confirmation process opens a new battlefield in the war between supporters of President Obama and his critics. The battle to confirm Eric Holder’s successor promises to be messy. Senate Republicans will treat the process as a referendum on everything President Obama has done — possibly everything his critics suspect he might want to do. Washington politics makes this sort of fight possible. The timing of Holder’s resignation, a few weeks ahead of Congressional midterm elections, makes this plausible. But Eric Holder himself made this battle necessary.
* This George Mason law prof really doesn’t want gays to be able to get married. As the ATL CommentBot will undoubtedly note, I disagree with him. But you gotta give Professor Nelson Lund credit for writing a hell of an opening line though. [SCOTUSblog]
* Yes, but would it be libel if the Men in Black had erased everyone’s memory of the arrest except for the one guy who escaped and is telling the truth but no one else knows or believes it? [Overlawyered]
Earlier today, the Obama administration “won” the health care decision. This afternoon, they “lost” a partisan struggle. Congress voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Holder becomes the first attorney general, and really, the first cabinet member, to be held in contempt.
Two hundred and fifty five Congresspeople voted to hold Holder in contempt. Twenty Democrats joined the vote. Shockingly, the National Rifle Association decided to “score” the vote as part of the Representatives report card on gun laws. Voting for contempt gets a “good score” from the powerful lobbying group, and many believe that explains the 20 chicken s*** Democrats who voted for contempt.
Holder is being accused of not cooperating with Congress’s ongoing investigation into the Fast and Furious program. It’s not clear that Holder even knew about the program. But, you know, Republicans are in the majority in Congress so they don’t really have to explain why they’re going after the Attorney General….
* Hyper-competitive weekend warrior kills himself racing down a mountain path and his family is suing the internet start-up that makes an app that allows you to track your time against other users. Is anybody making an app to track really stupid lawsuits filed by bereaved family members who receive terrible legal advice during times of crisis? [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]
* The Fast and the Furious Legal Edition: Executive of Privilege. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Bringing the billable hour to social media seems likely to make me cry. [Legal Cheek]
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