Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Nomination of Loretta Lynch

The nomination of Loretta Lynch to be U.S. attorney general was sent to the Senate floor over the concerns of some Republicans about her independence and support of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-8 Thursday, with three Republicans joining all nine of the committee’s Democrats in favor of Lynch’s nomination. Eight Republicans, including committee Chairman Senator Charles Grassley, voted against Lynch, saying they did not believe she would be independent enough of the White House.

Lynch, 55, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, would take over from Attorney General Eric Holder if confirmed and would be the first black woman to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official. She is expected to receive a vote in the full Senate next month. The committee’s vote was delayed a few weeks as Republican senators sought answers to questions about her stances on issues including immigration and prosecuting those responsible for the financial crisis.

Dissenting Republicans said her answers fell short of assuring them that she would be independent enough to stand up to Obama if she disagreed with him.

While praising her lengthy legal career, they also criticized her for testifying that the president’s actions on immigration were legal. The Justice Department is seeking to overturn a federal judge’s recent decision to block part of Obama’s plan to temporarily defer deportations for about 5 million undocumented immigrants.

Support for Obama

“We should not confirm a nominee who supports the legality of the president’s amnesty,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama. “This is the top law enforcement job in America, not a political position, and she must have total fidelity to the laws and the Constitution of the United States.”

Her opponents said they also were concerned that Lynch would continue to carry out the initiatives of Holder, who has a toxic relationship with Republicans in Congress.

“She could provide no answers that showed she would differ from Eric holder,” said Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, who is considering a run for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016. He said that Lynch’s views were “radical” and would “undermine the rule of law.”

Lynch’s Qualifications

Democrats said Lynch, who has served twice as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York and was a front-line federal prosecutor before that, was well-qualified to be attorney general because she supervised cases involving corrupt public officials and terrorists.

They accused Republicans of delaying the nomination for political gain in the legislative and legal fights over Obama’s immigration program. That political battle has entangled funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which runs out of money this weekend if Congress can’t pass a spending bill.

“Political fights over immigration should not hold up the nomination of Loretta Lynch or funding for DHS at this delicate time in our nation’s history,” said Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat.

Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake said Lynch’s nomination shouldn’t get entangled in the immigration dispute and that she had demonstrated over her career that she was equipped to be attorney general.

Her record “does not include anything sufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of confirmation,” said Hatch of Utah.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he supported the nomination because Lynch “seems to understand the war on terror.”

“Her experiences in life and as a U.S. attorney make her well qualified,” he said, adding that he, like most Republicans, is eager to see Holder step aside.

“Eric Holder is ready to go, and I wish him well,” Graham said. “He is about to make a lot of money. Republicans are into that. He will be a 1 percenter soon.”

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