Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will not attend his panel’s oversight hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday morning.
Instead, Leahy will attend a funeral in Vermont Wednesday for his close friend, Stevenson H. Waltien Jr., who died of an apparent heart attack Saturday. Waltien was serving as Leahy’s re-election campaign treasurer at the time of his death, The Burlington Free Press reported.
“I’m coming up for the funeral,” Leahy told the newspaper. “I want to be there.”
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) will chair the hearing in Leahy’s place, according to The Blog of Legal Times.
The hearing was initially scheduled for March, but was postponed so senators could attend the White House signing ceremony for the health care legislation.
Panel members are expected to question Holder about the Obama administration’s handling of alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was slated for a civilian trial but now may be returned to the military commission system.
Republicans are also anticipated to ask about Holder’s 2004 amicus brief in the Jose Padilla case, which argued that the president does not have the authority to imprison a U.S. citizen indefinitely without access to counsel or courts.
The brief, which was signed by Holder, former Attorney General Janet Reno and two other top-ranking Clinton administration officials, said that the civilian justice system may pose obstacles to detention or intelligence-gathering, but that such risks represent “an inherent consequence of the limitation of executive power.”