Specter picks a fight over Holder

SPECTER PICKS A FIGHT OVER HOLDER…. Josh Marshall noted last night that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) “never stops breaking new ground in the contest of political opportunism poseurish chest-thumping.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, wants to slow down the process of confirming Eric Holder attorney general, citing lingering concerns about the nominee’s role in the 2001 pardon of Marc Rich.

Specter said his concerns do not suggest he would oppose Holder, but said starting the hearings before Jan. 26 is “not realistic or fair.”

Earlier this week Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) set a Jan. 8 confirmation hearing date for Holder and said he would like the nominee confirmed by the time President-elect Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

“There are questions which have to be inquired,” Specter, a former Philadelphia district attorney, said.

Specter can ask his questions. He can (and has) met with Holder privately; he can (and has) requested information and documentation well in advance of the hearings; and he can (and will) pester Holder with as many inconvenient questions as possible during the hearings themselves.

But Specter seems to want a delay just for the sake of grandstanding. Based on the schedule Leahy has in mind, Specter has a month to get the information he feels he needs, and then two weeks to badger Holder. Why wait until Jan. 26 for hearings? Because Specter wants to drag this out for maximum partisan exploitation? Because he wants to re-litigate an eight-year-old controversy to score some cheap points in preparation for a Republican primary in Pennsylvania? Please.

To his credit, Leady seems more annoyed than persuaded by Specter’s whining. Indeed, in a “Dear Arlen” letter yesterday, the Judiciary Committee chairman noted Specter began reviewing Holder’s record weeks ago, and didn’t have concerns about the calendar at the time. Leahy also reminded Specter of recent history on Attorney General confirmation hearings, and why the committee schedule is entirely reasonable.

Stay tuned.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.