updated 1/28/2009 7:16:10 AM ET 2009-01-28T12:16:10

Eric Holder's confirmation as the first African-American attorney general was assured Tuesday when Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will support confirmation.

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"He will have significant Republican backing," the Pennsylvania senator told a news conference.

Specter's said he would not support any Republican filibuster to block the nomination.

No Republican has come out against Holder. However, several criticized him sharply for his role in some pardons by former President Bill Clinton, and the failure to recommend an independent counsel's investigation of Democratic fundraising during the Clinton administration.

Holder served as the No. 2 Justice Department official under Clinton.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is certain to recommend at its meeting Wednesday that Holder be confirmed.

Specter said he was satisfied with Holder's response that a case-by-case review was needed before any decisions were made on prosecuting intelligence agents who participated in harsh interrogation techniques.

Several Republicans said they were concerned the Obama administration would prosecute the agents.

Specter said President Barack Obama has taken the right approach by saying it was preferable to look forward rather than backward on the issue.

The senator said Holder made some bad decisions when previously in the Justice Department, including telling the White House he was neutral — leaning toward favorable — on the pardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive financier whose ex-wife was a major Democratic contributor.

Clinton pardoned Rich, who fled the country after he was charged with tax evasion, fraud and trading with the enemy — Iran — when that country held U.S. diplomats as hostages.

Holder said he wasn't aware of Rich's ex-wife's large donations to the Democratic Party and the Clinton library.

Specter said Holder was candid in acknowledging he made a mistake in the Rich case.

"Mr. Holder is entitled to the benefit of the doubt," Specter said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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