President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. appeared together at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on Wednesday morning in Washington. (Drew Angerer for The New York Times)
This Aug. 18, 2014 file photo shows President Barack Obama meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder  in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Holder, who is leading the federal response to the racial turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri, talks about the nation's civil rights struggles in a way none of the 81 previous U.S. attorneys general could _ by telling his own family story. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
This Aug. 18, 2014 file photo shows President Barack Obama meeting with outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)


WASHINGTON (AP) — Could the White House be hinting at when President Barack Obama might nominate a new attorney general?

The White House won’t give away Obama’s timeline. But press secretary Josh Earnest pointed out Friday that there is precedent for the Senate confirming nominees in a lame-duck session, the weeks in Congress between the midterm elections and the new lawmakers are sworn in and seated.

Some Republicans are urging Obama to delay a nomination until after a new Senate is sworn in next year. Democrats control the chamber now, but the majority is up for grabs in November.

“Rather than rush a nominee through the Senate in a lame-duck session, I hope the president will now take his time to nominate a qualified individual who can start fresh relationships with Congress so that we can solve the problems facing our country,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on the nominee.

In response to those GOP calls, Earnest raised the example of President George W. Bush’s nomination of Robert Gates as defense secretary the day after the 2006 midterm election in which Republicans lost their Senate majority.

“In less than a month, Dec. 6, Secretary Gates was confirmed to his post, with strong bipartisan support,” Earnest recalled. “So there is a precedent for presidents making important Cabinet nominations and counting on Congress to confirm them promptly, even in the context of a lame-duck session, if necessary.”

Earnest also pointed out that Attorney General Eric Holder’s predecessor, Michael Mukasey, was confirmed by a Senate led by the opposition party seven weeks later. “So there is a pretty clear precedent for attorneys general and for other prominent Cabinet officials to go through the process of being nominated and confirmed quickly and with bipartisan support,” Earnest said.

Obama can’t officially nominate a new attorney general until the Senate returns to session on Nov. 12. That leaves only seven calendar weeks until a new Senate in sworn in, including the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Obama, however, could announce his intent to nominate a new attorney general any time.

Candidates under consideration include:

— Solicitor General Don Verrilli

— Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York

— Jenny Durkan, who recently announced she’s stepping down as U.S. attorney in Washington state

— Labor Secretary Tom Perez

— former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

— Tony West, who recently resigned as the No. 3 at the Justice Department

— and Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.


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