PARTY LIKE IT’S 1999…. Last week, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the #3 person in the House Republican leadership, argued that “welfare reform” should be near the top of the GOP list of policy priorities. A few days earlier, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, considered something of a “rising star” in Republican politics, said the party needs to rally in support of a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

And as if the ’90s flashback wasn’t quite obvious enough, Senate Republicans now want to talk about the Elian Gonzales controversy, which began in 1999.

Senate Republicans have requested information about Attorney General nominee Eric Holder’s role in the Elian Gonzales controversy as part of a broad probe into his tenure with the Clinton administration and potential ties to presidential scandals during that era.

Eight of nine GOP members on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote Clinton Presidential Library Director Terry Garner on Thursday to ask for 10 categories of material, and that includes any information on Holder’s involvement with the Cuban boy seized by U.S. agents in April 2000.

Holder was deputy attorney general at the time. While the senators have publicly stated concerns about Holder’s role in the 2001 pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, the move to focus attention on the highly controversial Gonzales case indicates the confirmation of President-elect Obama’s top law enforcement official will be anything but smooth.

Seeking information about Gonzales suggests Republicans are seeking issues that will resonate outside the Beltway, unlike the Rich pardon.

This is just sad, even by the standards of congressional Republicans. Elian Gonzales’ mother died, he was returned to his father. We don’t like the country where his father lives, but we reunited the father and son anyway.

It’s unclear what role, if any, Holder had in the Gonzales case, but even if he took a leading role in the matter, it doesn’t matter. That eight Senate Republicans want to re-litigate this issue 10 years later borders on pathetic.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.