Senate Democrats

Reid Statement on Eric Holder

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate in support of Eric Holder’s nomination to be Attorney General of the United States.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“In the long and lurching march toward equality that in no small manner defines our progress as a nation, this moment in history will be remembered as a golden age.  The election of Barack Obama fulfills a dream that seemed unimaginable a generation ago.  A child born today will have every reason to believe beyond question the old adage that in America, any boy or girl can grow up to be president.

“To join him in governing our country, President Obama has chosen a brilliant, honorable and exceptionally well-qualified individual to serve as United States Attorney General.  With historic challenges facing the Department of Justice, I urge all of my colleagues in supporting the nomination of Eric Holder.  What began as a one-man part time office to represent the United States in Supreme Court trials has been transformed over the years to be the lead agency to fight terrorism, prosecute crime and uphold the fundamental rights of every citizen.

“In 1957, with the Civil Rights movement growing – and conflicts bubbling in all regions – the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice was established.  When Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, handicap, religion or national origin, it was the Civil Rights Division that ensured that they would be enacted with the full force of law.

“In the fall of 1962, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered United States Marshals to stand guard at the University of Mississippi against a violent mob of thousands so that James Meredith, the first African American accepted for admission, could enroll and attend classes peacefully.  In the summer of 1963, the Justice Department, led by Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, confronted Governor George Wallace as he physically blocked the admission of two African American students to the University of Alabama.  It took the federalization of the Alabama National Guard to force Governor Wallace to step aside and allow those students to enter.  These are just two of countless examples of the United States Department of Justice standing guard of our laws.

“Although the parchment of our Constitution may be yellowed and the ink may be faded, as long as the Justice Department stands behind the people’s demands for liberty, the spirit of our founders will never lose its sheen.

“I have no desire to rehash the many ways that the Bush Administration politicized and degraded the Justice Department away from its historic mission.  While we must not fail to remember that sad chapter in our history, I am far more interested today in looking toward a more hopeful future.

“With Barack Obama in the White House and Eric Holder leading the Justice Department, that brighter future begins now.

“The experience of this nominee is unquestioned.  As a young lawyer fresh out of Columbia Law School, Eric Holder accepted a job at the Justice Department he now stands ready to lead.  He was charged with the unenviable task of prosecuting corrupt public officials who had violated the public trust.  This type of work can be thankless and politically sensitive, but from a young age, Holder showed the courage to stand for the public interest, no matter the personal or political cost.

“In 1988, Eric was appointed by President Reagan to be an Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Superior Court.  In this capacity, he presided over countless trials involving violent crimes and murders, proving himself to be a fair and tough administrator of justice.

“In 1993, President Clinton chose Eric Holder as United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, where he focused on improving some of Washington, D.C.’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods by locking up wrongdoers and involving communities in law enforcement.

“As Deputy United States Attorney General starting in 1997, Eric showed fearlessness in prosecuting crimes against children and white collar crimes.

“During his tenure as Deputy Attorney General, Eric was also faced with the difficult decision of how to advise Attorney General Janet Reno on the investigation that led to the impeachment of President Clinton.  He chose to urge the Attorney General to expand the investigation to ensure that all facts would come to light.  He was harshly criticized by members of his own party for causing political trouble for the president.  But in this decision, Eric Holder again showed the courage to uphold perhaps the most important principle for any Justice Department official: answering to the people first.

“A difficult job awaits our next Attorney General.  He must strengthen the fight against terrorism.  He must do more to keep our streets and our boardrooms safe from crime.  And he must rebuild the Justice Department to be once again a guardian of the common good.

“Eric Holder has proven that he has the courage and wisdom to do justice to this critical job.”