Why is Eric Holder staying at the Justice Department?

Many predicted the embattled attorney general would step down

Eric Holder
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced that she would step down from her post, becoming the latest cabinet member to move on as President Obama begins his second term.

But perhaps the more interesting story revolves around the members of Obama's first-term cabinet who are sticking around. There are reportedly three of them: Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and, of all people, Attorney General Eric Holder. That comes as a bit of a surprise, given that Holder seemed to have one of the most miserable jobs in Washington. No cabinet member has been more of a GOP punching bag than him. He has been dragged before House committees time and again to testify on what many liberals consider to be a witch hunt over Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-running plan that allowed American weapons to fall in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

He has been accused of participating in a cover-up, becoming the first attorney general in American history to have been held in contempt of Congress. Leading Republicans have compared him to John Mitchell, a former attorney general who went to jail over the Watergate scandal. Scores of Republicans have repeatedly called for his resignation.

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Holder himself has ascribed Republican animosity toward him as purely political. "I've become a symbol of what they don’t like about the positions this Justice Department has taken," he told The Washington Post in July. "I am also a proxy for the president in an election year." Perhaps now that Obama has been re-elected, Holder will get a break in a second term.

Or perhaps, with Senate Republicans expressing serious doubts about almost all of Obama's cabinet nominees, perhaps Holder is sticking around simply because Obama can't afford to fight for every single cabinet position.

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