White House Won’t Name New Attorney General Until After Election


The White House has announced that it will not announce a new pick for Attorney General until after the midterm elections:

President Obama has decided to wait until after next month’s midterm elections to nominate a replacement for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., White House officials said on Tuesday, effectively ensuring that the choice does not get mired in campaign politics.

The Senate has already left town for the fall campaign and so would not be in a position to confirm a nominee before the Nov. 4 vote anyway. But the decision to wait until early to mid-November foreshadows a confirmation debate during the postelection session when lame-duck Democrats will still be in charge even if Republicans win a majority in the election.

Until now, the White House had been saying that the president would name a new attorney general as soon as possible, but Senate Democrats were pressing the president to wait. Mr. Holder has said he will stay on in the job until his replacement is confirmed.

When Eric Holder announced his resignation last month, the general consensus seemed to be that the Administration would name a replacement as soon as possible in order to set the confirmation process in motion, even while Congress was in recess, so that the Senate would be ready to take the nomination up during the Lame Duck Session after the election. This announcement would seem to make the likelihood that they will be able to pull this off at least somewhat less likely. Even if the nominee ends up being someone who has already been through the nomination process such as Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, thus meaning that things like background checks and interviews by staff would take far less time than they would with someone who hasn’t already been through the process, it will still give Senate Democrats a limited amount of time within which to get that work done, hold a confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee, and then a full floor debate and vote in the Senate. The fact that the 60 vote threshold no longer exists for Cabinet officials could be enough to allow Democrats get the confirmation in, of course, but its going to be a close call at the very least and, if the GOP does win control of the Senate in November I would expect a pitched battle on the issue of deferring the nomination until the new Congress convenes. As I’ve written before, this is not an entirely unpersuasive argument.

Another issue, of course, is that the Administration is going to be faced with rolling out a new Attorney General within a week or so after elections in which its party seems headed for a rebuke.. That’s not entirely fertile political ground to be playing on.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.