Brief of the Week February 9

THE ‘NO’ ON HOLDER HONOR ROLL: Despite questions about his role in very controversial last-minute pardons during the Clinton Administration (including those for notorious expatriate swindler and Democratic bankroller Marc Rich and for several Puerto Rican FALN terrorist bombers) and his role in the forced return of Elian Gonzales to Castro’s Cuba, Eric Holder was confirmed as attorney general last week and with relatively little trouble. Questions had repeatedly been raised about the many controversies involving Holder during his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but few were willing to pursue them. Ranking Republican Arlen Specter (Pa.), for example, brought up the pardon questions but then voted to confirm Holder in both the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. Conservative efforts to wage a full-blown confirmation battle were undercut by some prominent Republicans who weighed in early for Holder. Among those endorsing the former Clinton Administration official were William P. Barr, attorney general under the elder George Bush, and former Arkansas Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R.-Ark.), a former U.S. attorney and Clinton impeachment manager in the House. The vote in the Senate was 75 to 21 to confirm Holder, and all 21 “no” votes were cast by Republicans: Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), James Risch (Idaho), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Jim Bunning (Ky.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), David Vitter (La.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), John Ensign (Nev.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), John Thune (S.D.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), John Cornyn (Texas), John Barasso (Wyo.), and Mike Enzi (Wyo.).