Same Issues to Greet Eric Holder’s Successor as Attorney General

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Resignation Serves as Potential Reset for Administration Looking to Push New Laws on Civil Rights, Sentencing Reform.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement Thursday that he will resign signals an end to a turbulent tenure as the nation’s top law-enforcement official and a potential reset for an administration looking to push through new laws on civil rights and sentencing reform next year.

His successor will inherit many of the same thorny issues Mr. Holder has wrestled with: Assertions of broad executive authority to conduct military strikes on terror targets, to use lethal drones against U.S. citizens overseas suspected of terrorism and to gather Americans’ communications records.

The administration’s ability to push through any of its policy goals could be complicated if Republicans take control of the Senate in November.

Among those mentioned as possible successors is former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, according to people familiar with the discussions. She and Mr. Holder had dinner together at a Washington restaurant last month. Another candidate being considered is Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who argued the government’s case in the 2012 challenge to the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court. And Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been mentioned.

The White House could pick a successor in a matter of days or weeks, said several officials, meaning the nominee could be announced before elections but not face the confirmation process until after.

Mr. Holder, who became a lightning rod for criticism related to his handling of terrorism, civil rights and Wall Street investigations, will stay on the job until a successor is confirmed. That could leave him in limbo for months, given that the Senate won’t be in session until after the elections. Some Republicans have said a vote on his replacement shouldn’t take place during a lame-duck session.

President Barack Obama, in announcing Mr. Holder’s resignation, said the attorney general “believes, as I do, that justice is not just an abstract theory. It’s a living breathing principle.”

n nearly six years on the job, Mr. Holder extracted record-setting penalties from big banks, expanded benefits for same-sex couples and took on racial disparities in criminal sentencing and voting. He has also played a key role in some of the more controversial parts of the administration’s counterterrorism policy. His department wrote a legal justification for killing American citizens overseas if it is determined they pose a threat to U.S. lives and can’t be apprehended through traditional means.

His approach resulted in tense relations with congressional Republicans that grew so strained the House voted in 2012 largely along party lines to hold Mr. Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over certain internal documents related to a botched gunrunning probe known as Fast and Furious.

Mr. Holder, the first black attorney general, said in an interview he is pleased with the course he has set on issues such as gay rights and voting rights but said he hoped his departure might provide an opening to advance legislation to bolster civil rights and overhaul sentencing laws.

Mr. Holder’s time as the nation’s top law-enforcement official got off to a rocky start when he called America “a nation of cowards” for its aversion to talking about racial issues—remarks that caused consternation in the White House.

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Same Issues to Greet Eric Holder’s Successor as Attorney General