WASHINGTON Nov 9 The stalled nomination of
William Baer to be chief of the U.S. Justice Department's
Antitrust Division may move forward in the coming weeks, a
person with knowledge of the situation said on Friday.
Baer's nomination was approved by a majority of the Senate
Judiciary Committee in September by a 12 to 5 vote. Mike Lee of
Utah, the top Republican on the antitrust subcommittee, joined
majority Democrats in voting to approve the nomination.
But Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa and other Republicans
voted against Baer because of still-secret information contained
in an FBI background report, and have ensured Baer's nomination
is yet to come to the Senate floor.
Baer, a prominent antitrust and white collar criminal
defense attorney with the law firm Arnold & Porter LLP who has
worked in the past for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, was
nominated in early February.
The substance of the FBI's report is still unknown but the
source said it related to his personal behavior rather than his
legal career. Even Baer's critics agreed that legally and
professionally he was qualified to be the nation's chief
antitrust enforcer, the congressional source said.
Baer's opponents now believe it is likely that Senate
Democrats, who are the majority in the Senate and won additional
seats in elections this week, will seek to bring the nomination
up for a Senate vote before the end of the year.
In order for the nomination to be brought up on the floor,
the source said, the Democrats may need to ask senators for
At that point Grassley, the perceived leader of the
opposition to Baer, would not try to block a floor vote on Baer
but would likely vote against confirmation, the source said.
The division has been without a confirmed assistant attorney
general for antitrust since Christine Varney stepped down in
mid-2011. She was replaced by interim chiefs, the second of
whom, Joseph Wayland, leaves on Nov. 16. No new acting chief has
If Republicans agree to allow the full Senate to vote on
Baer, he will likely be confirmed, the source said.
Beth Levine, a spokeswoman for Grassley on the Judiciary
Committee, said that the official position on Baer's nomination
remained the same. "Nothing has changed," said Levine.
The Justice Department declined comment. Baer's office did
not immediately return a telephone call requesting comment.