Holder accepts Obama Justice offer: senior Democrat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder has accepted U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's conditional offer to head the Justice Department, a senior Democrat said on Tuesday.

Before the offer is made official, Obama's team wants to determine if Holder could win Senate confirmation with broad bipartisan support, the Democrat said.

While Obama will be the first black president, Holder would be the first African American to head the Justice Department, which is in charge of enforcing the U.S. civil rights laws.

Obama wants widespread backing from Senate Democrats and Republicans for his attorney general so that he would be in a strong position to clean up the department wracked by scandals during the administration of President George W. Bush.

"We know we have the votes for Senate confirmation, but we want to make sure he would have broad support so he can make needed reforms," the senior Democrat said.

The Democrat said fewer than a dozen key senators had been already been polled and that Holder backers were optimistic Obama would make him his nominee.

Holder, 57, served as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton. In the top spot, he would be the nation's senior law enforcement officer and deal with issues from crime to terrorism.

A source said Democrats in the Senate were trying to gauge how much opposition there would be to Holder from Republicans over his role in Clinton's 2001 pardon of fugitive Marc Rich. Holder at the time said he was "neutral, leaning toward favorable" on the pardon.

The senior Democrat said at this point it does not appear to be "a fatal flaw concern."

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Jim Vicini; editing by David Wiessler)