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Leahy Postpones Holder Hearing A Week

Attorney Andrew Cohen analyzes legal issues for CBS News and
The confirmation hearing for Eric Holder Jr. will be delayed after all-at least for a week.

Following a back-and-forth last week over the timing of Holder's confirmation to be attorney general, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy said today that he's moving the hearing from Jan. 8 to Jan. 15.

Leahy had previously resisted Republican requests to delay the hearing because he said the Justice Department needs stability and because Holder's nomination has been widely expected since mid-November.

In a statement, Leahy (D-Vt.) said he changed his mind in part because the Judiciary Committee is still waiting for the names of other nominees to top Justice Department posts. He also said he wanted to try to accommodate Republicans, who had asked that the hearing begin no earlier than Jan. 26.

"It is disappointing to me that they are insisting that we delay at a time when the nation needs its top law enforcement officer and national security team in place and working," Leahy said. "I trust that with this additional time to prepare, they will cooperate in proceeding promptly to Committee and Senate consideration of the historic Holder nomination as Democrats did for President Bush."

President-elect Barack Obama announced Holder as his choice Dec. 1. As Legal Times reported this morning, Republicans have signaled that they're preparing for a thorough hearing.

UPDATE: The location of the hearing has also changed. It had been planned for room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building, where the committee holds many of its hearings. It will now be in the historic Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, site of the Army-McCarthy hearings, the Senate Watergate hearings, and the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of now-Justice Clarence Thomas. The first day of now-Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.'s confirmation hearing was also held in the Caucus Room.

The change wasn't made for dramatic reasons, according to the committee.

"By rescheduling the confirmation hearings for Mr. Holder for one week later, the Committee faced a high demand for hearing rooms in the Senate," a spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail. "But it is fitting that proceedings for such an historic nomination will take place in the Caucus Room."

Some added significance; given that Holder would be the first black attorney general: Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929.

By Andrew Cohen