Conservatives are warning President Obama against using a lame-duck session of Congress to push through Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderWith extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one The Memo: Democrats may rue pursuit of Bannon Ben Affleck, Tracee Ellis Ross join anti-gerrymandering fundraiser with Clinton, Holder MORE's replacement, even as the White House signals its intention to fill the post quickly.
Holder’s announcement that he will resign as the nation’s top law enforcement officer reverberated Thursday around Washington, where speculation has already begun to mount about who might fill the Cabinet position.
Republican lawmakers quickly vowed that whomever Obama taps would be subject to intense scrutiny following an era when the GOP was often at odds with the Justice Department.
But even if, as many predict, Republicans reclaim control of the Senate in the approaching midterm elections, they would be largely powerless to block Democrats from using their current majority to confirm an attorney general before the new Congress is gaveled into session in January.
“Rather than rush a nominee through the Senate in a lame-duck session, I hope the president will now take his time to nominate a qualified individual who can start fresh relationships with Congress so that we can solve the problems facing our country,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Grassley, who voted to confirm Holder in 2009, lamented that his tenure “was strained by his lack of respect for Congress, the American taxpayer and the laws on the books. “
He noted, however, that Holder has committed to remaining on he job until a successor is named, allowing for the confirmation process to run its course.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Judiciary Committee chairman, said on MSNBC that he had spoken with the White House and called for a quick confirmation process.
"I hope that they would be able to decide on a nomination soon, definitely we should have confirmation hearings as quickly as possible in the Senate," he said.
Leahey said he hopes no one will try to slow the process down.
"I would hope that nobody would try to block an up or down vote on the chief law enforcement officer of the country," he said. "It would be the height of irresponsibility."
Confirming an attorney general between Nov. 12, when Congress is scheduled to return, and the end of the year would leave scant time for lawmaker vetting of the president’s nominee.
At the same time, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday the administration is already evaluating candidates to replace Holder and that the selection would be a "high priority."
He said the Senate should be prepared to act swiftly, adding to speculation from conservative groups that the administration intends to act this year.
“There’s no doubt the president will try to ram through a lame-duck Senate another partisan hack for attorney general,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots. “We cannot allow that to happen."
Republicans have repeatedly urged Democrats to refrain from pushing through any non-emergency legislation in a lame-duck session, arguing that lawmakers who have lost their seats would have no accountability.
That holds true for selecting Holder’s replacement, said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee, which will consider the eventual nomination.
“Allowing Democratic senators, many of whom will likely have just been defeated at the polls, to confirm Holder’s successor would be an abuse of power that should not be countenanced,” Cruz said.
Obama has shown a willingness to move aggressively on his nominations. In 2012, he installed three members opposed by Republicans to the National Labor Relations Board via his recess appointment power during a “pro-forma” session of the Senate.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that he had overstepped his authority, given that the chamber was technically in session.
Since those appointments, however, Democrats pushed through a Senate rule change known as the “nuclear option,” allowing most presidential nominees to advance with support from a simple majority of members.
The rule has significantly strengthened Obama’s ability to have his way for the time being. But that could quickly change in November.
“If Republicans gain control of the Senate, the lame-duck period represents the last chance to confirm a new attorney general without GOP support,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for the conservative group Heritage Action for America.
Peter Sullivan contributed.