Senate Republicans have forced the Judiciary Committee to delay for one week a vote on President Barack Obama's choice to be Attorney General, Eric Holder. Republican Senator John Cornyn says he wants more information from Holder on whether the Department of Justice will pursue criminal prosecution of U.S. intelligence personnel involved in the interrogation of detainees.
Just one day after President Barack Obama's inauguration, Republicans and Democrats were wrangling on Capitol Hill.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was expected to vote on Wednesday to confirm Eric Holder to be the new Attorney General, sending the nomination on to a vote by the full Senate. But Republican members invoked a rule that automatically delays the vote in the Committee by one week, saying that the process has been rushed and that the nominee has yet to answer all their questions.
The Committee's ranking Republican, Senator Arlen Specter, was almost apologetic, saying he would have been willing to let the panel vote, but that he still has concerns about the nomination.
"I have been asked, and I make the sharp distinction between my personal request and the request of the other Republican members of this committee, they have asked me to articulate their request that the nomination be held over for one week," said Senator Specter.
Specter said he and other Republicans want more time to learn what Holder is going to do as Attorney General. He said he is set to meet with Holder on Thursday.
The Committee's Democratic Chairman Patrick Leahy reacted angrily to the postponement, saying Holder has met every fair confirmation standard.
"The request has been made by the Republicans to hold the nomination over for one week," said Senator Leahy. "I am extremely disappointed. But they have that right, and this historic, historic nomination is held over. We will stay in recess up to the call of the Chair. "
Leahy said there has been an outpouring of support for Holder - the first African American to be nominated for the post of Attorney General.
Holder, who served as Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration, has vowed to be an independent attorney general, and to break with the counter-terrorism policies of the Bush administration.
Under questioning from the Judiciary Committee last week, Holder said he believes the interrogation technique known as waterboarding amounts to torture.
Just two weeks ago, former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning, saying it has produced valuable intelligence in the war on terror.
Earlier Wednesday, Republican Senator John Cornyn of the Judiciary Committee said that part of his concern relates to Holder's statements on torture and his possible intentions regarding U.S. intelligence personnel.
Holder has strong support among Democrats in the Senate, and experts say his confirmation is not considered to be in doubt. But Republicans may try to win a firm commitment from the man likely to be the next Attorney General that he will not prosecute intelligence officers involved in harsh interrogations.