Key Democrats Vow to Block Bush Nominee
Wednesday, September 12, 2007; 7:57 PM
WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats will block Ted Olson from succeeding Alberto Gonzales as attorney general if President Bush nominates him, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday.
"Ted Olson will not be confirmed," Reid, D-Nev., said in a written statement. "I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general."
The comment gave weight to Republican warnings that Olson, a former solicitor general, would face brutal confirmation hearings and that the White House can't afford a fight now over who will head the troubled federal law enforcement agency.
"It would be unfortunate to nominate someone who can't be confirmed," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said earlier in the day.
The White House said President Bush would send up an "exceptionally qualified nominee."
"The nominee will have expertise in the law, a commitment to fighting crime, and an understanding of the threats we face today and the legal tools needed to combat those threats," said deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto. "We hope the Senate will set aside partisan politics long enough to confirm a nominee _ for the good of the Justice Department and the country."
There had been no indication that Bush had settled on Olson to succeed Gonzales, whose last day on the job is Friday.
But Olson's name has been mentioned enough that both Republicans and Democrats are saying that the longtime GOP ally would face a long, tough fight after representing candidate Bush before the Supreme Court in the contested 2000 election.
Earlier Wednesday, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, said he talked with about 10 Democrats about Olson and that some made noises, if not outright threats, about blocking his nomination.
"I have been warned by a number of Democrats that they're not going to let that happen," Hatch said of an Olson confirmation. If the White House thinks Olson would sail through the Senate, Hatch said, "then they don't understand the people up here."
Reid's comments were the first indication that Olson's nomination would be dead-on-arrival on Capitol Hill.
Democrats, including current Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, indicated they would mount strong challenges to Olson if Bush nominates him. "He is certainly not a consensus nominee," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "He has a very political background."