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Attorney General Nominee Eric Holder Gains GOP, Law Enforcement Support

Attorney general nominee Eric H. Holder Jr. testifies during a grueling confirmation hearing. Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.) encouraged his fellow Republicans to endorse Holder.
Attorney general nominee Eric H. Holder Jr. testifies during a grueling confirmation hearing. Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.) encouraged his fellow Republicans to endorse Holder. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 17, 2009; Page A04

Attorney general nominee Eric H. Holder Jr. won support yesterday from another Republican lawmaker, all but ensuring his candidacy will proceed smoothly and not fall to a GOP filibuster.

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Holder, a former judge and U.S. attorney in the District, met Friday morning with Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and picked up his endorsement a day after a grueling confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Eric Holder understands the unique role of the Attorney General and further, I think he's qualified to serve in that role," Martinez said in a written statement. "Therefore, I intend to support Mr. Holder's confirmation and urge my colleagues to do the same."

Senior Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have scheduled a markup on Holder's nomination for Wednesday, in keeping with a promise by Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) to move swiftly to confirm key players on President-elect Barack Obama's national security team.

Word of Martinez's support punctuated a day in which former FBI director Louis J. Freeh urged lawmakers to support Holder, even though the men at times had disagreed about issues of law and policy in the Clinton administration.

Freeh had opposed a controversial 2001 pardon for fugitive financier Marc Rich, a decision he said was a "corrupt act . . . but it was not a corrupt act by Eric Holder."

Rather, Freeh said yesterday, Holder had acknowledged making a "terrible mistake" and that "we can be sure he will never allow himself again to be put in that position."

Holder's role in pardon decisions by President Bill Clinton emerged as the single biggest obstacle to his confirmation, which would cap a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement and private practice in Washington. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other top Republican operatives had signaled that Holder's nomination could be the rockiest of Obama's Cabinet picks.

His nomination drew bitter opposition from relatives of victims killed in a series of bombings by the Puerto Rican nationalist group FALN, whose members were pardoned by Clinton over objections from the FBI in 1999.

To counteract the negative publicity, Holder's allies rounded up support from the Fraternal Order of Police and former Justice Department officials under presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Chuck Canterbury, national president of the FOP, told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that he had canvassed line officers who worked with Holder in the District in his capacity as U.S. attorney and as a Superior Court judge.

"When politics are put aside when examining Mr. Holder's record, you will find him not only well qualified, but also possessed of the requisite character, knowledge and experience to be an effective leader," Canterbury said.

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