- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2009

Republicans raised new challenges to Eric H. Holder Jr.’s bid to become attorney general as the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the secretary of state Wednesday.

Hours before Mrs. Clinton won approval in a landslide 94-2 vote, Senate Republicans put the brakes on Mr. Holder, saying they needed him to better explain his views about U.S. interrogation methods at Guantanamo Bay and whether intelligence agents will face criminal prosecution.

“I want some assurance that we aren’t going to be engaged in any witch hunts,” Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican on the committee, told reporters.

In a confirmation hearing last week, Mr. Holder said that “waterboarding is torture.” That view breaks with the Bush administration and could expose U.S. troops and agents to prosecution for their treatment of terror suspects.

It is a new wrinkle for Mr. Holder, a former judge and deputy attorney general, who was grilled at a confirmation hearing last week about his role in Mr. Clinton’s the end-of-term pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

Senate Democrats said they are certain Mr. Holder will win confirmation.

Republicans so far have backed down from confirmation fights with President Obama, and approved seven Cabinet secretaries since the inauguration Tuesday.

The confirmation of Mrs. Clinton was delayed a day by several Republicans including Mr. Cornyn, who objected because of the potential influence of foreign donors on former President Bill Clinton’s foundation.

A day later, Mr. Cornyn voted in favor of her confirmation.

He said he had a conversation with Mrs. Clinton during the inaugural events and that she was satisfied with a broad public disclosure of the donations.

“I also think it’s important to flesh out the concerns raised,” he said during floor debate. “If we are going to restore trust between the American people and their government, we need to be sure the reality matches the rhetoric.”

She won votes from several senators on both sides of the aisle who previously voiced concerns about the influence of foreign cash.

Last month, the Clinton Foundation and Mr. Obama’s transition team agreed to make public a list of its past contributors, annually publish the names of its current donors and agree to submit future foreign donations to a State Department ethics review.

The ‘no’ votes were cast by Republican Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and David Vitter of Louisiana.

Mr. DeMint said Mrs. Clinton refused to give guarantees that her husband’s foundation will not receive donations from foreign governments during her tenure in order to remove any temptations for other countries to try to influence U.S. policies.

Mrs. Clinton, who replaces Condoleezza Rice as chief diplomat, was expected to be sworn in later Wednesday. A welcoming ceremony at the State Department was planned for Thursday.

Senators on both sides of the aisle highly praised Mrs. Clinton’s qualifications for the position, as they had done during her confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee.

Members also praised the Clinton Foundation’s achievements around the world, which they said save and improve lives in many countries. The foundation receives about $500 million in donations, which are used to help fight HIV/AIDS, global warming and poverty.

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