Obama Aides Said to Weigh Senate Fight Replacing Holder

President Barack Obama hasn’t settled on a pick for attorney general and his advisers are concerned that two top candidates, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, may provoke a damaging confirmation fight, a person familiar with the deliberations said.

Administration officials haven’t told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of their preferred candidate or given any timing on a nomination, according to another person. Both people asked for anonymity to talk about private conversations among administration and congressional officials.

Attorney General Eric Holder said last month that he’ll leave as the nation’s top law enforcement official as soon as a successor is confirmed. With Democrats in jeopardy of losing their Senate majority in the November midterm elections, Obama may seek to get his nominee through the process before the new Congress is seated in January.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in an e-mail, “We have no personnel announcements at this time, and we’re not going to engage in speculation.”

While Democrats will control 55 seats in the Senate through the end of the year and a nominee needs only a majority for confirmation, Republicans will still be able to create hurdles and closely question whoever Obama picks.

Perez drew opposition from Republicans during his confirmation as labor secretary over what they characterized as ideological decisions he made as head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Forty-three Republicans voted against his nomination for labor secretary.

Republican Questions

Ruemmler, who rejoined Latham & Watkins LLP as a partner in the litigation department after leaving the White House in May, probably would face questions from Republicans about White House actions on a variety of issues, including investigations into misconduct involving the Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of the limited-government Tea Party and others political groups.

Other potential candidates to replace Holder include Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, and Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

The New York Times reported today that Obama is set to announce his choice before the Nov. 4 election and Perez is the leading contender.

Perez refused to address whether he was a candidate for the post during a conference call with reporters today aimed at encouraging support for raising the federal minimum wage.

No Decision

Nevada Democrat Reid, who would be in charge of scheduling floor action on a nominee, was told during a recent conversation with an Obama administration official that no decision had been made on a nominee to replace Holder, one of the people said.

The person said no names were discussed and the White House probably would wait until after the congressional election to announce a nominee because administration officials want to ensure the candidate is thoroughly vetted.

A Senate Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that it would make sense from the standpoint of procedures to wait until the Senate returns to Washington on Nov. 12 to announce a nominee. Typically, Cabinet nominees spend the days immediately after their nominations are announced visiting top senators on Capitol Hill. Those senators are now scattered across the country campaigning.

If the nomination were made now, it would remain open to scrutiny for more than a month until Congress returns.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected to say that Ruemmler left the White House.)

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