Holder Confirmed In Overwhelming Senate Vote

WASHINGTON (Monday, Feb. 2, 2009) – The United States Senate Monday night overwhelmingly voted 75-21 to confirm Eric H. Holder Jr. to be the 82nd Attorney General of the United States.  Attorney General Holder’s designation was first announced more than two months ago, on Dec. 1, 2008.  Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee held two days of hearings to consider the nomination.  Holder responded to hundreds of questions submitted for the record before the Committee voted to report the nomination last Wednesday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in closing remarks on the Senate floor about the nomination stated that Holder had the character to serve as Attorney General.  He stated that the “challenges are too great not to” confirm Holder.

"I want to thank all my colleagues who took part in this debate over the past several weeks,” said Leahy.  “It’s an historic nomination.  And of the last four Attorneys General, Eric Holder has the largest ‘aye’ vote of any of them.  I think it is a good sign for the country.  It is a good sign for the Department of Justice."

Leahy has scheduled a hearing in the Judiciary Committee to consider the nomination of David Ogden to serve as the Deputy Attorney General for Thursday, Feb. 5.

Leahy’s closing remarks as prepared follow.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
Closing Statement on the Nomination of Eric H. Holder Jr.
To Be Attorney General of the United States
February 2, 2009

As Prepared

It is time for the Senate to complete its consideration President Obama’s historic nomination of Eric Holder to be Attorney General of the United States.

In an article I coauthored with the Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Specter before last November’s election we wrote:  “The Attorney General’s duty is to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, not to circumvent them.  The president and the American people are best served by an Attorney General who gives sound advice and takes responsible action, rather than one who develops legalistic loopholes to serve the partisan ends of a particular administration.”  That is the kind of Attorney General Eric Holder will be.

It was seven score and four years ago that this Nation answered the fundamental question President Lincoln posed in his Gettysburg Address and the world learned that liberty, equality and democracy could serve as the foundation for this great and united Nation.

The American people have had cause and occasion to reflect during the past several weeks about this great country.  The inauguration of our new President was two weeks ago tomorrow, and two weeks ago today was the holiday the country has set aside to celebrate and rededicate ourselves to the cause of freedom and equality.  Three and a half weeks ago, the day of Mr. Holder’s hearing, was the 80th anniversary of the birthday of the extraordinary man for whom that holiday is named.  With this confirmation, we take another step up the path toward the time Dr. King foresaw: when people are judged by the content of their character.  Eric Holder has the character to serve as the Attorney General of the United States.  He passes any fair confirmation standard.

America’s diversity when drawn together is a source of our Nation’s strength and resilience.  Americans must be able to trust their Justice Department. That trust must not be squandered or taken for granted.  We need leaders who are prepared to take the laboring oars of a Justice Department whose dedicated law enforcement professionals have been misused and demoralized.  Eric Holder is such a leader.

With this confirmation, we mark the distance from when an Attorney General of the United States did not believe that the Constitution of the United States allowed an African American to be considered a citizen of the United States to an Attorney General who knows that the Constitution is the great charter of freedom and equality for all people.  It was a former Attorney General, Roger Taney, who wrote the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision denying the humanity of slaves, former slaves and free men.  It is perhaps the worst legal opinion ever rendered in this country.  That is not what the Constitution said and not the promise of America. 

Today each one of us, acting pursuant to our constitutional responsibilities as United States Senators, can by our votes and by the overwhelming endorsement of this institution for this nomination demonstrate how far we have come as a Nation.

The election of Barack Obama and Joe Biden and the President’s nomination of Eric Holder to be Attorney General of the United States provide an historic opportunity for the country to move beyond the partisanship of the past decades.  We can make a real difference if we will come together to solve the Nation’s problems, protect against serious threats, and meet the challenges of our time.

Let us honor the wishes of the American people who in November broke through debilitating divisions to join together in record numbers.  Let us acknowledge that our inspirational new President has moved forward promptly to assemble an extraordinarily well-qualified and diverse group of Cabinet officers and advisers.  And let us move away from petty partisanship in order to serve the greater good.

Of course any Senator is free to oppose the nomination and vote against confirmation.  In this instance, I think they will be on the wrong side of history.  I believe that when we take a step back and look at the big picture and the best interests of the country, Eric Holder is someone who deserves our support and merits our votes.  In order to serve effectively as Attorney General he will also need our help.  The challenges are too great not to join together to confirm Mr. Holder and proceed promptly to consideration of the entire Justice Department leadership team that President Obama has selected.

I urge all Senators to join together to do what is right and approve this extraordinary public servant to the critical post for which President Obama has nominated him by voting for Eric H. Holder Jr. to be the 82nd Attorney General of the United States.

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