WASHINGTON – The Senate majority leader said Wednesday that Democrats would block former Solicitor General Theodore Olson from becoming attorney general, kicking off a spirited nomination debate even before the White House has named a candidate.
“Ted Olson will not be confirmed,” Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. “I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general.”
The sharp remarks by Reid and other Democrats about Olson in recent days underscore the political challenges the White House faces in finding a replacement for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who will leave office Friday after months of confrontations with Congress over the firings of U.S. attorneys and other issues.
White House officials said Wednesday that President Bush has not yet chosen a nominee to replace Gonzales. A candidate will not be named until next week at the earliest, officials said. “The president will send up an exceptionally qualified nominee,” spokesman Tony Fratto said in a statement. “We hope the Senate will set aside partisan politics long enough to confirm a nominee.”
Olson is the latest in an array of potential candidates, including Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who have drawn early objections from Democrats. The Washington Post reported last week that Olson had emerged as a leading contender, but many Democrats view him as a sharply partisan figure with alleged ties to a conservative magazine’s investigation of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 1990s.
He was opposed by most Democrats in 2001 when he was confirmed as solicitor general by a Republican-controlled Senate.