Washington (CNN) – Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Obama administration would likely decide within weeks where the accused 9/11 conspirators will go on trial.
Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his original decision to hold the trial in a New York City civilian court remains "on the table,"
despite pressure against that venue from Republicans and New York officials.
When confronted later at the hearing by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, who opposes a New York trial, Holder said the concerns of city residents and officials would be taken into account.
After the hearing, Schumer issued a statement rejecting Holder's New York option.
"We know the administration is not going to hold the trial in New York. They should just say it already," Schumer said.
The hearing, originally scheduled for March, was postponed until Wednesday so Democratic committee members could attend the bill-signing
ceremony for health care reform legislation.
An expected showdown between Holder and Republicans who oppose his policies did not materialize. While Holder faced some tough questions, he remained calm and also received praise from Democrats on the panel for his stance on controversial issues such as closing the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility and putting terror suspects on trial in civilian courts.
Holder said Wednesday he supported using both civilian courts and military commissions for detainee trials, with the venue determined by what would be best for each particular case.
Some Republicans oppose such civilian trials, saying the terror suspects are enemy combatants who should not receive rights afforded U.S. citizens. Some also dislike the administration's plan to close the Guantanamo Bay facility.
Holder said the facility would be closed as soon as possible, but he was unable to specify when. He also said that 48 Guantanamo detainees would be housed elsewhere when the facility closes because the government intends to hold them indefinitely.
The government is looking at a maximum security prison in Thomson, Illinois, as a possible venue for the terror suspects.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, appeared to trip up Holder when he asked where the administration planned to detain any dangerous terror suspects captured in an overseas terrorist stronghold such as Yemen. Holder stumbled, and then responded, "We're wrestling with that."
"We are basically a nation without a viable jail," Graham declared, noting the Guantanamo Bay facility would be shut and that placing an al Qaeda prisoner at the U.S.-run Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan would cause problems domestically for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, missed Wednesday's hearing to attend the funeral of his former campaign treasurer in Vermont.