[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] voted 17-2 Wednesday to approve the nomination of Eric Holder [professional profile] to serve as Attorney General. Holder won the approval of all the Democrats on the committee, as well as some of the Republicans, including ranking Republican committee member Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website]. The two dissenting votes were cast by Republican Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) [official websites]. Specter said [press release] Tuesday, "I think that Mr. Holder is entitled to the benefit of the doubt in the context of the excellent record that he has and those recommendations weighed against the issues which were of concern to me." Committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] responded [press release] to Specter's declaration of support, saying, "I am glad that Senator Specter has resolved his concerns and will support Eric Holders nomination to be the next Attorney General." Holder's confirmation will now to go a vote before the entire Senate.
Earlier this month, Holder told the committee [JURIST report] in confirmation hearings [materials; transcript] that he believes waterboarding [JURIST news archive] constitutes torture. Then-President-elect Barack Obama officially announced his nomination of Holder [JURIST report] last month. Holder served as Deputy US Attorney General [archive materials] during the Clinton administration. Republicans have criticized [JURIST report] Holder for his role in the 2001 pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich [Time backgrounder]. If confirmed by the Senate, Holder would be the first African-American to lead the Justice Department.