Eric Holder is stepping down as attorney general, though he promises to stay on until his replacement is confirmed. If you believe that Republicans are going to take the Senate in November, that means Holder has to be confirmed between now and the swearing-in of the new Congress in January, which means probably in the lame-duck session, because otherwise the hearings and vetting and so on would have to begin while Congress is out campaigning. That's not likely to happen. A confirmation process that takes place in the lame-duck session would be under the Harry Reid no-filibuster rules, so Republicans can't block the process at any point with 41 votes.
Still, Republicans are going to look hard to find some way to slow-walk this thing past January -- or, given the fact that the replacement is likely to be named in a few days, browbeat red-state Democratic senators up for reelection into declaring themselves opposed to the appointee.
Reminder: while President Obama only needs 51 votes to get the next AG confirmed, Senate Dems are cowards and basically awful people.— Zandar (@ZandarVTS) September 25, 2014
How much can they frighten Landrieu and Begich and Udall and Pryor and Hagan and Shaheen? Well, it depends on the appointee:
AG short list: Kathryn Ruemmler, Donald Verrilli, Deval Patrick, Janet Napolitano. My guess: Ruemmler.— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) September 25, 2014
* Janet Napolitano. She's on the list? Seriously? She's tops on my list of candidates cowardly Democrats will run screaming from, primarily because anyone who watched Fox News at any time in Obama's first term "knows" that Napolitano considers domestic terrorists, by which she means the Tea Party and gun owners, to be a greater threat to the U.S. than foreign jihadists. That this is utterly wrong in so many particulars (for instance, the domestic terrorism report was overseen by a Bush holdover) won't matter -- she'll become massively controversial, and Democrats in tight races will have to distance themselves from her. Matt Drudge alone, with dozens of "Big Sis" headlines a day, will singlehandedly get her name withdrawn.
* Deval Patrick. The outgoing governor of Massachusetts would seem to be a fairly innocuous choice -- a lot of reporters today were speculating that he's the front-runner, in large part because he's in D.C. today, but as a Boston reporter noted, that was for a long-planned event. Patrick, however, is under fire in his home state for seemingly using political pressure to keep his brother-in-law, a convicted rapist, off the state's sex offender list. Not a good pick under those circumstances.
* Kathryn Ruemmler. Obama's former White House counsel did tell the president that he could make recess appointments when the Senate was holding meaningless pro forma sessions but was effectively in recess; the right considers this unmitigated fascism on Obama's part, and the Supreme Court has said Obama didn't have that right, but it's an obscure issue except to political pros, constitutional scholars, and right-wing rage junkies, so I don't think Republicans can browbeat Democrats into abandoning Ruemmler as a result. However, Ruemmler also negotiated a court-filling deal with GOP senator Saxby Chambliss that led President Obama to nominated Michael Boggs for a federal judgeship; Boggs has, among other things, ruled in favor of the Confederate battle flag. This one could be controversial from either side, though at a low level.
* Donald Verrilli. He defended the hated Obamacare before the Supreme Court, and got bad grades for his defense, but won the case. I doubt that Republicans could scare Democrats with that, even in Obamacare-averse states -- it's not a law he's associated with otherwise, and a right-wing Supreme Court did back his side in the case.
There are other names (Preet Bahrara? The guy who tried to jail Dinesh D'Souza? That would be a fun confirmation fight. I think Dems could handle that.)
Republicans, I think, will probably just press the argument that the confirmation shouldn't take place in the lame-duck session on principle, especially if they win Senate control in November. I'm not sure they can prevent confirmation, but if they can't, they'll work the refs with the argument that the new AG is illegitimate simply because of the way he or she was confirmed. Putting a permanent cloud over this person's head might be enough for the Republicans.
UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long.
So it begins: Grassley calls for holding off AG nom process until new year. This is our flashpoint, folks, process, process, process.— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) September 25, 2014
Remember: if Republicans win Senate control, any confirmation process overseen by Harry Reid will be jackbooted fascism.