Will Obama force a nomination fight for new AG in lame duck session?
The ideal situation for Republicans would be for President Obama to nominate a candidate to replace Eric Holder as attorney general sometime after the election with a vote coming when the Congress reconvenes - hopefully with a GOP Senate majority - in January.
Indeed, any nomination the president made before the election would elicit cries of playing politics with the choice. Of course, no matter when the president nominates Holder's replacement, politics will play a big role. But the perception of so nakedly politicizing the choice in order to pander to one constituency or another just weeks before the election would burden the nominee unnecessarily.
Unfortunately for Republicans, they've already set a precedent otherwise.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest is citing Sen. Mitch McConnell’s support for the lame-duck confirmation of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2006 as precedent for a quick confirmation of a replacement for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
Earnest made the reference Friday at the his daily briefing, although he did not lay out a timetable for the president to make his decision.
He noted unprompted that the Gates nomination came the day after midterm elections with Democrats winning control of the chamber, and McConnell, R-Ky., did not propose waiting until the new Democratic Senate took over before holding a vote.
Gates, however, won overwhelming support — a 95-2 vote — and a delay would not have affected the outcome.
Earnest also noted the swift confirmation of Michael Mukasey as attorney general in 2007 by a Senate of the other party.
The Mukasey vote was narrow — 53-40.
Any choice for AG Obama makes will be controversial. It's not likely that the president will choose someone to the right of Holder, and if he had his druthers, he would nominate the most liberal candidate available.
That won't happen with a Republican Senate. But with Harry Reid having his finger on the nuclear option, a vote before the end of the year could saddle America with someone even worse than Holder.
Realistcally, it will take a few weeks to vet all the candidates and make a selection, so the nomination probably won't come until after the election anyway. And with the likelihood of a vote to authorize military force in Syria filling up the congressional agenda in the lame duck session, there may not be time for hearings and a vote to confirm any new AG nominee.
But Harry Reid has proved himself resourceful in the past. If Obama wants his nominee confirmed before the end of the lame duck session, it will be hard for the GOP to stop him.