Say Goodbye to Eric Holder, Republicans

Confirm her already, senators.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer

Now that they're back in Washington after a weeklong break, Senate Republicans should make their first order of business something they’ve been wanting to do for a long time anyway: saying goodbye to their least favorite member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, Attorney General Eric Holder.

The problem is that giving Holder a proper send-off requires confirming his replacement, Loretta Lynch. And approving Lynch means acknowledging that they cannot block Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Those actions have since been put on hold by a federal judge, although the administration plans to appeal. At any rate, it’s clear that Senate Republicans do not have the votes to pass a bill preventing the Department of Homeland Security from carrying them out. So they are blocking Lynch instead, mostly out of sheer frustration.

In other words: The fight over Obama's immigration order is over. Republicans have lost. Holding Lynch hostage -- or even defeating her nomination, as Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are urging -- will not change this central fact. Republicans are now in charge of Congress, and the Department of Homeland Security is funded only through the end of the month. This is their problem to solve.

It is almost impossible to believe that Republicans would allow the department’s operations to be disrupted, if only because they would incur the wrath of the American people. And yet, at least at this stage, they seem to have no viable Plan B. Instead, they are testing the theory -- unlikely, if polls are any indication -- that the public would blame Democrats for shutting down Homeland Security.

Memories are short on Capitol Hill, and governing is hard. But House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have both said they are intent on proving that Republicans can govern responsibly. They now face a major test. Engaging in political brinkmanship with the agency charged with protecting the public from terrorist threats would be dangerously irresponsible and politically foolish, as Boehner and McConnell must surely realize.

The best solution to the Republican quandary is perhaps the least likely: admitting that they cannot stop Obama’s executive actions through the budget, and instead getting to work on immigration-reform legislation that -- as part of a compromise with the White House -- would involve the president rescinding his actions.

But it all has to begin by letting go of this doomed effort to block Obama's executive action and approving Lynch's nomination -- and, not incidentally, bidding farewell to Holder. C'mon, Republicans. You know you want to.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net.