Who Will Fill Holder’s Shoes?

Ed Morrissey ponders the timing of Holder’s resignation:

The White House is apparently worried that a Republican takeover of the Senate will make confirmation of Holder’s replacement very difficult unless Obama appoints someone Republicans like. Resigning now allows Obama to appoint a replacement soon, and Senate Democrats to schedule the hearings during the lame-duck session (and don’t forget Harry Reid’s rule change on filibusters for presidential appointments, too, which expires at the end of this session).

But naming a replacement for Holder carries significant political risks if it happens ahead of the midterms, too; if Obama picks someone too radical, Republicans will jump all over the choice in Senate races, and warn that the Democratic incumbents (or challengers, as the case may be) will be a rubber stamp for confirmation. It really puts the rubber-stamp issue front and center in the Senate races, which is exactly what Democrats who are trying to distance themselves from Obama didn’t need.

Scott Lemieux runs through a handful of possible replacements. The one currently getting the most attention – even for his facial hair:

Some administration sources have suggested that the Solicitor General is already a top candidate to replace Holder. [Don] Verrilli, a corporate lawyer without [Massachusetts Governor Deval] Patrick’s civil rights experience before becoming the nation’s top lawyer, is far from an exciting choice (that mustache notwithstanding). He’d also seem particularly unlikely to demonstrate any independence whatsoever from his boss. But having already gone through the Senate confirmation wringer and as a well-known Obama confidante, he’d be a safe choice who would require a minimum of political capital to get confirmed, something that (for better or worse) has always been important to Obama.

Dylan Matthews provides some background on Verrilli:

Perhaps Verrilli’s most significant private client was the Recording Industry Association of America, and he worked on a number of copyright-related cases on the side of copyright holders. He successfully argued MGM Studios v. Grokster, in which the Supreme Court held that entertainment companies could sue peer-to-peer services like Grokster for copyright infringements committed by their users. Before joining the Obama administration as associate deputy attorney general in 2009, he coordinated an infringement lawsuit by Viacom against YouTube that has since been settled after a number of court rulings in favor of YouTube and its parent company Google.

So it’s not too surprising that copyright reform activists are skeptical of Verrilli.

Waldman expects fireworks at the confirmation hearings:

[T]here’s no doubt that the fact that [Holder] has been involved in so many racial controversies is the key reason why he is the second-most-hated member of the Obama administration among conservatives.

When Republicans get a chance to question the person nominated to replace him, each and every one of those issues is going to come up. The nominee is going to be asked to repudiate everything Eric Holder did. And when that doesn’t happen, Republicans in Congress will turn on the nominee with everything they can muster, in a demonstration to their base that they feel their anger.

In 2009, Holder got confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 75-21. It’s going to be a lot closer, and a lot uglier, this time around.

Relatedly, Harry Enten points out that “the confirmation of an attorney general has been the most contentious of any Cabinet position”:

Attorney general nominees are by far the most likely to face serious resistance. The average number of “no” votes for all Cabinet position is just 4.5. AG nominees average 13 more than that — 17.4 “no” votes — far ahead of labor secretary nominees at No. 2, who have averaged 10.3 votes.

A lot of these averages, though, are skewed by one or two confirmation votes in which the nominee was particularly controversial. For example, defense secretary nominees would average half as many “no” votes if we didn’t count John Tower’s 1989 confirmation — 53 senators opposed him.

That’s why the median column is quite instructive. The median attorney general nominee received 21 “no” votes. That is, the majority of AG nominees since 1977 have faced combative hearings.

Follow all of our Holder coverage here.