(Senate - December 12, 2008)

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[Pages S10971-S10973]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[[Page S10971]]

 Mrs. McCASKILL. Mr. President, this week, the Senate passed an 
important piece of legislation sponsored by Senator Grassley and 
myself, that was needed to assure the new Special Inspector General for 
the $700 billion financial rescue program could staff up quickly and 
have the ability to do his job. S. 3731's other cosponsors--Senators 
Collins, Lieberman, Snowe, Dodd, Bunning, Schumer, Levin, Carper, 
Coleman and Cantwell--were also key to securing unanimous support for 
this bill in the Senate. Finally, I want to give special thanks to 
Senators Baucus and Shelby for working closely with us to craft a 
strong bipartisan bill.
  This legislation, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled 
Asset Relief Program, SIGTARP, would specifically grant the Special IG 
created under TARP earlier this fall to have full oversight over all 
activities under the TARP program. The bill would have also granted the 
IG the temporary hiring authority needed to quickly hire the dozens of 
auditors required to conduct this critical oversight.
  As the original Inspector General language is written under current 
law, Mr. Barofsky, who was confirmed as the Special Inspector General 
this week, must hire his entire staff using normal civil service 
channels. I am a big proponent of using the normal hiring process 
whenever possible. But that process is time consuming and can take 
weeks, sometimes months, to hire one person. Meanwhile, this money is 
flying out the door. TARP has given out nearly all of the first $350 
billion, and they have already told us they want the second half soon. 
Yet, Mr. Barofsky has no staff, and he won't have staff for some time. 
We need to fix this--right now.
  Our bill would also make clear that the Special Inspector General has 
oversight authority over the entire relief program. As written right 
now, SIGTARP has oversight authority over only two sections of the 
relief program. Why would we want to limit the Inspector General to 
only certain sections of this program? Our legislation would make clear 
that SIGTARP has oversight duties over all of TARP. This would include 
sections related specifically to assistance to homeowners and 
promulgation of conflict of interest rules by the Secretary of the 
  Senator Snowe added some provisions to assure that the IG would 
provide Congress and the public a thorough analysis of TARP's spending, 
as well as a requirement for Treasury officials to report to Congress 
an explanation if they did not implement the IG's recommendations.
  As a former auditor, nothing is more frustrating than seeing your 
recommendations completely ignored. I would never claim that all audit 
recommendations can, or should, be immediately implemented. But we need 
to be able to assure ourselves that these recommendations are taken 
seriously and are being considered. We should know the reason if these 
recommendations are not implemented.
  Finally, Senator Snowe suggested that we should make sure that the 
Special Inspector General has the resources he needs by imposing a time 
limit on providing him with the money allocated to his office in the 
original bill. The relationship between an agency and an office charged 
with overseeing them is a delicate one. Tensions sometimes arise due to 
the fact that IGs must rely on the agency they audit and investigate 
for their resources. While I have no reason to think that the Treasury 
Department would deny Mr. Barofsky the funds needed to perform his 
duties, this provision would eliminate that tension.
  Unfortunately, we were not able to secure passage of this legislation 
in the House before we adjourned this week. I will do everything I can 
to bring it back first thing in the 111th Congress to secure its quick 
passage in both chambers and signed into law to assure we have strong 
oversight on the $700 billion financial rescue program.
 Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, the election of Barack Obama and Joe 
Biden, and the President-elect's selection of Eric Holder to be 
Attorney General of the United States, provide an historic opportunity 
for the country to move past the partisanship of the past decades, and 
work together to solve the Nation's problems, protect against serious 
threats, and meet some of the greatest challenges of our time. We all 
know these men. They have long and distinguished records of service and 
accomplishments. They can make a real difference if we join with them, 
not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.
  The need for new leadership at the Department of Justice is as 
critical today as it has ever been. The Judiciary Committee, both 
Democrats and Republicans, spent a good deal of time and effort during 
this Congress uncovering scandals at the Department. Former Attorney 
General Gonzales, Karl Rove, Mr. Rove's White House deputies, and 
virtually the entire leadership at the Department resigned in the wake 
of congressional investigation. Since then, the Inspector General at 
the Department has confirmed many of our findings and fears, and there 
are still more reports to come. An ongoing criminal investigation is 
being conducted by a specially appointed prosecutor. The crisis at the 
Department of Justice is not resolved, but ongoing.
  I want to continue the work we began last year when I scheduled 
prompt hearings and the Senate proceeded to confirm Michael Mukasey, 
Mark Filip and Kevin O'Connor to serve as Attorney General, Deputy 
Attorney General and Associate Attorney General after the Rove-Gonzales 
resignations, even though we were on the eve of the election of a new 
President. We cannot now delay restoring the Justice Department and the 
confidence the American people have in our justice system. We must 
promptly consider and confirm Eric H. Holder Jr., and other nominees of 
the new President.
  I was encouraged by the initial reaction in mid-November when Mr. 
Holder's name was reported as the likely nominee, and when he was 
designated by the President-elect on December 1. Democrats and 
Republicans alike acknowledged his qualifications and praised the 
choice. I appreciate the willingness of Larry Thompson, who was 
confirmed early in 2001 as President Bush's first Deputy Attorney 
General; Louis Freeh, the former Director of the FBI; and Fran 
Townsend, President Bush's former Homeland Security advisor, to speak 
out in support of Mr. Holder's designation.
  As early as November 19, the ranking Republican member of the 
Judiciary Committee said that he would not hold up the matter, but 
``would be prepared to move ahead very promptly with hearings.'' I 
appreciated and shared his desire to proceed ``as fast as we can move'' 
and his commitment that he ``wouldn't hold it up.'' He said that he 
hoped Mr. Holder would ``re-professionalize'' the Justice Department. I 
hope so, too.
  I agree with Senator Specter that we need to strengthen the Justice 
Department. He and I coauthored an article in the Politico before the 
election. In a sentence Senator Specter quoted recently on the Senate 
floor, we wrote: ``The Attorney General must be someone who deeply 
appreciates and respects the work and commitment of the thousands of 
men and women who work in the branches and divisions of the Justice 
Department, day in and day out, without regard to politics or ideology, 
doing their best to enforce the law and promote justice.'' I have every 
confidence that Eric Holder is such a person, and I said so in this 
chamber on November 20. Indeed, in his brief remarks on the morning he 
was designated, Mr. Holder expressed just such appreciation.
  I know that the professionals at the Department of Justice reacted 
with delight when he was named because they know him well. They know 
him from his 12 years at the Public Integrity Section, from his time as 
the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, from his tenure on the 
bench, and from his years as the Deputy Attorney General, the second-
highest ranking official of the Department. His prompt confirmation 
will do a great deal to restore morale throughout the Justice 
  I have called Mr. Holder a prosecutor's prosecutor. He participated 
in a number of prosecutions and appeals involving such defendants as 
the State Treasurer of Florida, a former Ambassador to the Dominican 
Republic, a local judge in Philadelphia, an Assistant United States 
Attorney in New York City, an FBI agent, a ``capo'' in

[[Page S10972]]

an organized crime family, and a powerful Democratic chairman of the 
House Ways and Means Committee.
  After he served for a dozen years as a prosecutor, President Reagan 
nominated Mr. Holder to be a judge, and he served with distinction on 
the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He left the bench to 
become the first African American U.S. Attorney for the District of 
Columbia, heading the largest U.S. Attorney's office in the country.
  Four years later, Mr. Holder was nominated to the important post of 
Deputy Attorney General. I worked with Senator Hatch, who was then 
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to report his nomination favorably 
to the Senate. I was disturbed that an anonymous Republican hold 
delayed consideration of his nomination for three weeks, but when the 
Senate finally voted, the vote was unanimous. All 100 Senators voted to 
confirm Eric H. Holder Jr. to be the Deputy Attorney General of the 
United States. He became the first African-American in the history of 
the Department to achieve that high position.
  Eric Holder has prosecuted high-level public officials and organized 
crime, developed comprehensive programs to combat domestic violence, 
child abuse, and violent crime, and revitalized programs to assist 
crime victims. He helped guide the Department's efforts on the criminal 
prosecution of corporations, health care fraud, computer crimes, 
software piracy, and helped develop the community prosecution model. He 
has served at nearly every level of the Department of Justice he would 
  He is a public servant who will have broad support within the law 
enforcement community. He has already received the support of the 7,000 
member National District Attorneys Association, NDAA. It was when I was 
the vice president of that association and Arlen Specter was 
the District Attorney in Philadelphia that the ranking member and I 
first met. The NDAA indicates that it feels a special relationship with 
Mr. Holder because he was a street crime prosecutor.

  Having a prompt confirmation hearing for the new Attorney General is 
in keeping with how we have treated all the men and women nominated to 
be Attorney General in the 34 years I have served in the Senate, in 
particular at the beginning of a newly-elected President's term. That 
is how the Senate acted on President Carter's appointment of Attorney 
General Griffin Bell. That is how we acted on President Reagan's 
appointment of Attorney General William French Smith. When I chaired 
the Judiciary Committee as President Bush was preparing to take office, 
I began the hearing on his selection for Attorney General just 25 days 
after his designation. Likewise, last year I rejected the efforts by 
some on my side of the aisle to delay hearings on Michael Mukasey and 
proceeded on that nomination in 30 days. I did not curb the rights of 
Committee members to pose questions to then-nominee Mukasey during his 
confirmation process; I do not intend to do so with Eric Holder.
  I want to be as fair to President-elect Obama and to Mr. Holder as we 
have been to others. I have noticed the hearing for the next Attorney 
General to begin 39 days after he was officially designated and 52 days 
after we all began reviewing his record following press reports on 
November 18.
  In my statement to the Senate on November 20, I commended Senators 
Hatch, Sessions, Coburn, and Grassley for their nonpartisanship when 
they praised his selection. Senator Hatch spoke of his support for Mr. 
Holder, his experience and reputation. Senator Sessions, a former 
prosecutor, U.S. Attorney, and State Attorney General who is well aware 
of the problems at the Justice Department, said he was disposed to 
support him. Senator Coburn called it ``a good choice.'' In addition, 
Senator Grassley has acknowledged Mr. Holder's impeccable credentials 
while reserving judgment.
  But of course since then, Karl Rove has appeared on the Today Show 
and signaled that Republicans ought to go after Mr. Holder. Right-wing 
talk radio took up the drum beat.
  I think the responsibilities of the Attorney General of the United 
States are too important to have that appointment delayed by partisan 
bickering, by some tit-for-tat drawn out process. This is a public 
servant we have known and worked with for more than 20 years, and the 
Senate has previously confirmed him three times to important positions. 
His record of public service, his integrity, his experience and the 
commitment to the rule of law that he will bring to the office of the 
Attorney General of the United States deserve better. He should not be 
made a pawn in some partisan political game.
  I began the week meeting with Mr. Holder. He did not defend the Rich 
pardon. That is hardly a new matter. It was the subject of House 
hearings and a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing chaired by Senator 
Specter in 2001, almost 8 years ago. That is not a reason to delay his 
confirmation hearing. In fact, the confirmation hearing will give those 
who have doubts and need reassurance the chance to ask Mr. Holder about 
that matter and hear about it directly from him.
  I thought the President-elect had it right when he said recently that 
Mr. Holder has acknowledged that the Rich pardon was a mistake. 
President-elect Obama agrees. I agree. President-elect Obama said: 
``But when you look at the totality of his experience, there is no 
doubt that he is going to be an outstanding Attorney General.'' That is 
the essential point.
  Like the President-elect, I want the American people to have 
confidence that laws are being evenly applied to everyone and that we 
are working with local and state as well as Federal officials 
constantly to improve our criminal justice system. Public confidence 
and faith in that system has been shaken during the last several years, 
and Mr. Holder can help restore it.
  We need the new Attorney General to be a person of integrity and 
experience, who can inspire the thousands of hardworking prosecutors, 
agents and employees who do their best every day to enforce the law and 
promote justice without regard to partisan politics. We need an 
Attorney General, as Attorney General Robert H. Jackson said 68 years 
ago about the Federal prosecutor, ``who serves the law and not 
factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.''
  That is the kind of man Eric Holder is, the kind of prosecutor Eric 
Holder always was and the kind of Attorney General he would be. The 
next Attorney General will understand our moral and legal obligation to 
protect the fundamental rights of all Americans and to respect the 
human rights of all people. Eric Holder will ensure that the Department 
of Justice is working to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, 
not working to circumvent them.
  I was struck by the contrast between what President Bush and Alberto 
Gonzales said at that announcement and how President-elect Obama and 
Mr. Holder spoke at his. This is part of the change we need, the change 
the American people voted for and hunger for. President-elect Obama 
said: ``Let me be clear. The Attorney General serves the American 
people. And I have every expectation that Eric will protect our people, 
uphold the public trust, and adhere to our Constitution.'' The next 
President understands the role of the Attorney General of the United 
States and that it is not as counselor to the President. I have no 
doubt that Mr. Holder understands the independence required of the 
Attorney General and that his experience and lessons he has learned 
will serve him and the American people well.
  No one should have to remind us how decimated the Department of 
Justice was during recent years, or how important it is that it be 
restored. I think it was Senator Specter who called it dysfunctional 
and said that morale was in disarray. We understand that it is all too 
important that the Department have its senior leadership in place 
without delay. We must act on this nomination; the Attorney General is 
the top law enforcement officer in the country and a key member of the 
national security team.
  When President Bush nominated Michael Mukasey last year, Senator Kyl 
said: ``Since the Carter administration, attorney general nominees have 
been confirmed, on average, in approximately three weeks, with some 
being confirmed even more quickly. The Senate should immediately move 
to consider Judge Mukasey's nomination and ensure he is confirmed 
before Congress

[[Page S10973]]

recesses for Columbus Day.'' I held that hearing within 30 days. We 
should not change the standards now that a Democrat is making the 
  During my time in the Senate, serving during 8 presidential terms, 
there has been an average of 29 days between announcement of an 
Attorney General designation and the start of hearings, and 37 days on 
average from the announcement of the nominee to the Committee vote. The 
Holder hearing was set for 39 days after announcement, with the hope 
that he can be considered by the Committee within 50 days. That does 
not seem unreasonable. I do appreciate that we and our staffs will be 
working over the holidays, but we have been called upon many times to 
do so during the last several tumultuous years.
  This is not the occasion to convert our consideration of an executive 
branch nomination into the kind of searching scrutiny we rightly 
provide for lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court, which is 
apparently what the Republican side is intent upon doing.
  This is no ordinary time. Over the last 8 years, political 
manipulation and influence from partisan political operatives in the 
White FIouse have undercut the Department of Justice in its mission, 
severely undermined the morale of its career professionals, and shaken 
public confidence in our Federal justice system. During those 8 years, 
we experienced the attacks of September 11 and have retooled the 
Justice Department and the FBI to work closely with the intelligence 
community in our efforts to prevent terrorism. Never has it been more 
important to have an experienced hand as Attorney General.
  I hope our Republican Members will resist the temptation toward 
partisanship and join with us to consider this appointment fairly and