This vote was on confirming the nomination of Eric H. Holder to be attorney general.
Holder was appointed in 1988 by President Reagan to be a judge in the District of Columbia Superior Court, and in 1993 President Clinton appointed him as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1997 Holder became deputy attorney general.
“With President Obama in the White House and Eric Holder leading the Justice Department, that brighter future begins right now. The experience of this nominee is unquestioned. As a young lawyer, fresh out of Columbia Law School, one of the finest law schools in America, Eric Holder accepted a job at the Justice Department. He didn't want to see how much money he could make, he wanted to enter public service, and he did. The job he took at the Justice Department is now a department he stands ready to lead. At the time he worked there, as a young new lawyer, he was charged with the unenviable task of prosecuting corrupt public officials who had violated the public trust. This kind of work can be thankless and politically sensitive, but from a young age Eric Holder showed the courage to stand for the public interest no matter the personal or political cost,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Republicans led by Arlen Specter, D-Pa. (who was a Republican at the time) had raised opposition to Holder because of his role as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration. Republicans were concerned about some controversial pardon and clemency decisions he was involved with, concerning 16 Puerto Rican separatists and billionaire Marc Rich.
John Cornyn, R-Texas, echoed these concerns.
“In the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Holder failed to answer my questions, regrettably, and the questions of my colleagues in a way that alleviated these concerns. As I will explain, I indeed found Mr. Holder's answers to be nothing short of evasive in some key respects. Because I have doubts about Mr. Holder's judgment and independence, I am opposing this nomination, and the four reasons, as I tried earlier to summarize but which I will repeat are Mr. Holder's role in the FALN and Los Macheteros commutations, his role in the Marc Rich pardon, his misjudgments and shifting opinions with regard to the war on terror, and his record of hostility toward the individual's right to keep and bear arms,” Cornyn said.
Gun-rights groups had urged Republicans to vote Holder down because in 2008 he supported a case that challenged the District of Columbia’s restrictive firearms ownership regulations, which the Supreme Court ultimately rejected. However, Holder’s nomination was never seriously in jeopardy and by the time Holder’s nomination reached the Senate floor, Republicans did not mount any real resistance.
By a vote of 75-21, Holder was confirmed. Every Democrat present voted for the nomination. Of Republicans present, 19 voted for the nomination and 21 voted against it. The end result is that the Senate confirmed Eric Holder to be attorney general.