WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate chairman who will preside over the potentially bumpy confirmation hearings of Attorney General-designate Eric Holder continued his public campaign on Holder's behalf Tuesday by producing two prominent Republicans who back his confirmation.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, was joined by former GOP Sen. John Danforth, and former DEA Administrator and Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson. All praised Holder's ability to exhibit the necessary independence from the Obama White House.
At the heart of that issue is Holder's decision to acquiesce to the White House when President Bill Clinton granted a controversial pardon to fugitive Marc Rich in the final hours of Clinton's presidency.
Despite repeated predictions of Holder's confirmation, Leahy appeared frustrated by the pointed challenge to the nomination by the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
"I totally disagree with him," Leahy told reporters.
He took a swipe at Specter, saying, "Maybe it's just a coincidence" that Republicans began to attack Holder's nomination immediately after former White House political operative Karl Rove urged scrutiny of it. Leahy referred to
Specter as "the leading supporter of Alberto Gonzales," who was narrowly confirmed as attorney general in 2005.
"To those who seek to question his character I would point out that it was Mr. Holder who urged the expansion of the Ken Starr investigation. It was Mr. Holder who prosecuted Democratic Congressman Dan Rostenkowski. It was Mr. Holder who recommended that a special prosecutor investigate President Clinton's interior secretary, Bruce Babbitt," Leahy said.
The hearings into the Holder nomination are scheduled to begin Thursday morning in the historic Senate Caucus Room where the Watergate hearings and other high-profile hearings have unfolded.