President Barack Obama’s recently announced Deputy Attorney General nominee may have to wait awhile.
The White House sent to the Senate on Monday Obama’s nomination of former public corruption prosecutor James Cole for the Justice Department’s No. 2 position. Cole would replace acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, who has held Justice Department’s number two spot since David Ogden stepped down in February.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement last week that his panel would consider the Cole nomination at the “earliest possible time” and he hoped to expedite consideration of Cole like the Senate did with President George W. Bush’s Deputy Attorney General nominee in 2007.
The panel held a hearing for then-Deputy Attorney General nominee Mark Filip two weeks after his Dec. 5, 2007, nomination. The committee voted on Filip on Jan. 31, 2008, after the Senate returned from its holiday recess. The Senate later confirmed him by voice vote on March 3, 2008.
But exactly how quickly the notoriously slow Senate can move in a hyper-partisan election year remains to be seen.
On Tuesday, Leahy brushed off questions about a hearing date. A Democratic committee aide also told Main Justice that the panel won’t move to schedule a hearing until it receives Cole’s questionnaire.
Republicans also don’t seem to be itching to get started.
Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking panel Republican, said in a statement last week that the committee “must not rush the process.”
Sessions said Cole’s role in monitoring American International Group, the insurance company that was the recipient of a multibillion-dollar government bailout, “will need to be closely examined.” Cole is currently a partner at Bryan Cave LLP.
The panel’s work this summer also will be focused on Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Her hearing is set to commence on June 28 and Leahy anticipates that she will be confirmed before the end of the summer.
The committee has moved on nominees while considering Supreme Court picks. Last summer, the panel reported out then-Office of Legal Policy nominee Christopher Schroeder the same day it approved Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor — though Schroeder’s nomination was held up for another nine months because of Republican objections to his criticism of President George W. Bush’s national security policies.
Additional reporting by Ryan J. Reilly.