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All in the Timing: When Will Democrats Try to Replace Eric Holder?

There are two different schools of thought among Democrats about when they make their move to get a replacement confirmed.

There are two different schools of thought among Democrats about when they make their move to replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced on Thursday he was stepping down. The first school: The White House and Senate Democrats should push for the replacement’s confirmation during the lame-duck session after the midterms -- in case Republicans win control of the Senate. “Definitely, we should have confirmation hearings as quickly as possible in the Senate,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell yesterday. With such a move, and with the filibuster now deactivated for all appointments but Supreme Court ones, Democrats would pretty much ensure that Holder’s replacement would get confirmed. Republicans, of course, want Democrats to slow down. “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,” Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said. That brings us to the second Democratic school of thought: You wait until next year and possibly dare a GOP-controlled Senate to blow up an attorney general nomination, especially during a time the U.S. is waging a military campaign in Iraq and Syria. “What I think the president ought to do is make this the first test of whether the new Republicans are going to continue to obstruct,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said, per the New York Times.

A reminder: We probably won’t know which party controls the Senate until December or January

There are two other things to keep in mind regarding timing. One, it is more than likely we won’t know which party will control the U.S. Senate until December and maybe even January, with potential runoffs in Louisiana (Dec. 6) and Georgia (Jan. 6). And then there’s the case of Greg Orman in Kansas -- if he wins that Senate race, we might not know with which party he’ll caucus for quite some time. So folks are likely fooling themselves if they know who will be in charge of the Senate right after Election Day. Two, the White House maintains that Holder will stay in his job until a successor is confirmed. That’s a warning to the GOP: If you don’t help confirm a new nominee, you’ll be stuck with Holder.

The Replacements

As for the short list to replace Attorney General, here are the top names our sources are giving us:

  • Former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler
  • U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of New York
  • Outgoing U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan of Seattle
  • U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli
  • Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
  • Current Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
  • Labor Secretary Tom Perez

No longer on this list is Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who was once considered the favorite. The reason why: “On Thursday, Patrick denied rumors that he is next in line for the job. According to an aide, he said at an event in Hudson that the post of attorney general is ‘an enormously important job, but it's not one for me right now.’” And if he has ANY interest in a presidential or VP bid in 2016, Patrick probably realizes that attorney general isn’t the best stepping stone.

The misunderstood Eric Holder

As for Holder, has there been anyone who was more misunderstood in Obama’s cabinet -- especially on the right -- than the attorney general? In statement after statement yesterday, Republicans referred to Holder as a deeply partisan attorney general. But the big complaint about Holder, particularly from Democrats in the first Obama term, was how politically tone deaf he was. More than anything else, Holder became a proxy punching bag for House Republicans, who said things to (and about) Holder that they might not have said to the president. It was a turbulent tenure for Holder, especially in the first four years, but that tenure wasn’t as controversial when you reflect on it. Meanwhile, the New York Times looks at Holder’s complicated legacy with the left. “Mr. Holder, who announced his resignation Thursday, frequently invoked the [Robert] Kennedy legacy as he made civil rights the centerpiece of his six-year tenure… But Mr. Holder has continued Mr. Kennedy’s work in another way, one he is less likely to embrace but is no less part of his legacy. Like Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Holder has frustrated and confounded even his staunchest allies for his views on civil liberties.”

Ways and Means chairman race will force Paul Ryan’s hand

The news that Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) says he will seek to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee is significant for this simple reason: It will force Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to declare his intentions -- run for president or Ways and Means chairmanship -- sooner rather than later. By the way, Brady’s declaration isn’t exactly new. Back in February, Brady had announced expressed his desire to chair Ways and Means. Roll Call: “‘He’s a terrific leader, a good friend,’ Brady said of Ryan, according to early transcript of a portion of the interview that will air on Bloomberg TV. ‘But the point is, I’m qualified and prepared to lead this committee. At the right time, I’m going to make that case to my colleagues. This is all about the ideas and how we can move tax reform, trade, entitlement reform forward, so it’s good to have a healthy competition.’”

Milton Wolf to possibly endorse Orman?

Well, well, well -- look at who is possibly considering to endorse Greg Orman in Kansas’ Senate contest. Politico: “Milton Wolf, the tea party candidate who battled Sen. Pat Roberts in a bitter Republican primary fight, is considering some political payback: Endorsing Kansas independent Greg Orman, sources said Thursday night. But there’s a big catch: To win Wolf’s endorsement, Orman must first agree to caucus with the Senate GOP if he were to defeat Roberts in the general election.” But even if Orman doesn’t agree to caucus with Republicans, here’s the problem for Pat Roberts and the GOP: Another day goes by without Roberts’ primary opponent not endorsing him to help unite the party. This explains why Roberts had to bring in Sarah Palin -- in September! -- to rally the base, because the base is fractured. And we’re not even talking about the GOP divisions regarding incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback (R).

Values Voter Summit time

The annual Values Voter summit in Washington -- sponsored by the Family Research Council -- is taking place today, and the morning speakers include Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY). The afternoon line-up has Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. And in the evening, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks. This summit is always heavy on social issues, but the morning panel is focused on international affairs: “America Abroad: Our Role in the Global Quest for Freedom.” So it will be interesting to see what the prominent GOP speakers have to say about what’s happening in Iraq and Syria.

First Read’s Race of the Day

IN-2: Walorski vs. Bock:Republican Jackie Walorski must be getting used to tough elections. The South Bend lawmaker almost managed to eke out a 2010 win over Democrat Joe Donnelly, but failed despite the big GOP wave. After redistricting two years later, though, she managed to cling to victory but remains a top target on the Democratic wish list. Derided by Democrats in the past as “Wacky Jackie,” she’s working to tout her bipartisanship and focusing on her work to help veterans and victims of military sexual assault. She faces Democratic opponent Joe Bock, an expert in humanitarian aid and disaster response.

Countdown to Election Day: 39 days

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