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Specter to vote for Holder

From NBC's Pete Williams

Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is the ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said today he'll support Eric Holder when the committee votes on the nomination Wednesday.

Committee Republicans had asked to have the vote delayed a week to further examine Holder's record and to seek written answers to other questions. Sen. Specter himself appeared highly skeptical during a confirmation hearing earlier this month.

Video: Attorney General nominee Eric Holder answers questions from Sen. Arlen Specter about his involvement in the Marc Rich pardon issued by President Clinton.

But Specter said, despite what he views as Holder's mistakes in handling pardons and other issues, Holder "is entitled to the benefit of the doubt in the context of his excellent record."  Specter said he was also impressed by enthusiastic endorsements from Louis Freeh, the former FBI director, and from James Comey, a former deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.

His questions about Holder, Specter said, concerned matters of judgment. 

"At no time did I question his integrity," he said. 

By contrast, Specter added, he voted against the nomination of Timothy Geithner for Treasury Secretary, because it appeared Geitner intentionally avoided paying taxes. 

Specter said he believes Holder will receive "significant" Republican backing but declined to predict the outcome. With the new Senate composition, the Judiciary Committee is now 11 Democrats and eight Republicans. It was was a 10-9 Democratic majority in the last Congress.