Expect Dems to push through Holder’s replacement

Eric Holder's resignation late last week set off waves of speculation and partisan posturing in Washington. Republicans are warning Democrats not to try and replace

Eric Holder's resignation late last week set off waves of speculation and partisan posturing in Washington. Republicans are warning Democrats not to try and replace Holder in a "Lame Duck" session if the GOP wins back control of the Senate.

But Holder resigned just in time to make sure Democrats can do exactly that. And there's not much Republicans can do to stop it under Senate rules.

It's true that Holder has proved to be one of the most controversial figures in the Obama administration. Democrats adore him for taking on fights on voting rights, racial disparities in sentencing and gay rights. Republicans see a completely different figure: The man who presided over the "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking program that involved the murder of a border agent and failed to bring criminal charges against IRS officials involved in scrutinizing conservative political groups.

So it's no surprise that Holder's carefully timed resignation has brought out the battle axes. Remember that some Republicans have been calling for Holder to resign or even be impeached for well over a year.

So how is a confirmation battle over the official whose agency controls federal firearms enforcement, border enforcement, immigration law and civil rights enforcement likely to go? If you answered "not very easily, at all," you're right.

In this political climate Republicans aren't inclined to approve President Obama's pick for dog catcher, much less for the head of the department controlling policy their political base cares about most. And it explains why Democrats might want to use every lever they have to get a replacement approved.

It's all about the mid-term elections Nov. 4. Republicans are favored to take back control of the Senate on that night. But there are two important facts to keep in mind: 1) The new Senate term doesn't start until January 2015, and 2) new Senate rules mean that even if the GOP wins the election, they can't easily stop a Holder replacement pending their new majority.

Remember the "nuclear option?" The partisan confrontation over White House nominations goes back until at least 2005. Back then, Republicans frustrated by Dems blocking President George W. Bush's nominees threatened to change the Senate's rules and roll over the minority.

It never happened, but flash forward to 2013. Democrats, now in the majority and angry over unprecedented GOP obstruction, finally hit the Senate's nuclear button. Now Dems enjoy the power to approve political appointees and nominees, except Supreme Court bids, with 50 votes, not the traditional 60 that deals in Republicans.

If Democrats defy expectations and keep Senate control next month, then  President Obama is in no rush. Harry Reid will still be Majority Leader in January and Democrats will still need only 50 votes to get a nominee approved. But if the predictions are right and the GOP takes charge, look out for Obama to defy tradition and push a nominee thru while 55 Democrats are still in town to do it.

President Obama already has said he intends to move "quickly" to replace Holder. But it's the election he's waiting for to see just how quickly that is.

Republicans have issued stark warnings about the consequences of a lame duck appointment. Sen Ted Cruz, a member of the Judiciary Committee and leader of the GOPs conservative movement, called the prospect an "abuse of power that should not be countenanced."

But the truth is that while GOP senators can use Senate rules to slow down the process by a couple weeks, they can't stop like the process like they could have before Harry Reid went nuclear. The best Sen. Cruz and others can hope for is to raise the political cost for Democrats to support a lame duck nomination move, or to raise money from enraged conservatives once it happens.

That's the point of warnings from Sen. Cruz and other Holder enemies: Not to stop Obama from using a power move to replace Holder, but to benefit from it if he does.

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