Senate Panel OK's Holder

ABC News' Jason Ryan reports:  Eric Holder is one step closer to becoming the nation's first African-American attorney general.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard testimony from Holder earlier this month, voted to send his nomination to the full U.S. Senate by a vote of 17-2.

Holder received bipartisan praise at the meeting, despite some initial reservations by Republican members of the committee.

Key Republicans initially questioned Holder's judgment, mainly because of his involvement in President Clinton's controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. 

Holder served in the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration, under then-Attorney General Janet Reno.

But after a lengthy confirmation hearing and meetings on Capitol Hill, the panel's top Republican decided to publicly endorse Holder on Tuesday.

Two panel members, Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, voted against Holder.  Cornyn cited the Rich pardon as the reason behind his decision.

The full Senate could vote on Holder's nomination sometime Thursday.

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