In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch appears on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate Judiciary Committee is moving toward a vote on Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general. Lynch is expected to win approval. Democrats are backing her strongly ahead of the vote. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont calls her a superb prosecutor. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Loretta Lynch, 55, could be mere hours or days away from becoming the first African-American woman to assume the helm of the United States Justice Department if the full Senate takes a vote this week or next week as widely anticipated.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 26 voted 12-8 to approve Lynch’s the nomination, clearing the next-to-last hurdle before the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York could be confirmed as the replacement for Attorney General Eric Holder.
Three Republicans—Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)—sided with the committee’s nine Democrats in support of President Obama’s choice, who is best known for her successful prosecution of the New York City police officers responsible for the 1997 beating and sodomy of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
“I will support advancing her nomination to the floor today because her record shows that she is well qualified to be Attorney General and does not include anything sufficient to overcome the presumption in favour of confirmation,” Sen. Hatch said during the Feb. 26 Committee hearing. “The case against her nomination, as far as I can tell, essentially ignores her professional career and focuses solely on about six hours that she spent before this committee on January 28. I do not believe that is a proper way to evaluate any nominee’s fitness for any position.”
Other Republicans on the committee, however, including Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and John Cornyn (Texas) said they would withhold their vote of support for Lynch and would encourage others not to because of her alleged lack of independence from the White House, case in point being her support for President Obama’s immigration policies.
“The current Attorney General has permitted politics to drive decision making far too often,” Grassley said in a statement. “ after thoroughly reviewing Ms. Lynch’s testimony, both before the committee and in written follow-up questions, I remain unconvinced she will lead the department in a different direction.”
The sentiment reflects those expressed by 51 Republican House representatives, who sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging senators not to support Lynch because of her failure to disavow Obama’s executive actions that would delay deportations of illegal immigrants and allow them to work while in the U.S.
“At the very least, you should reject Ms. Lynch’s nomination to register your disapproval with this Administration’s persistent, lawless conduct,” the letter read in part.
Democrats, on the other hand, have had their own complaints, specifically, the unprecedented delay—110 days—in the committee’s consideration of Lynch’s nomination.
“While Ms. Lynch was nominated by President Obama in November, she did not receive a hearing until January and only today, four weeks since Ms. Lynch appeared before the Committee, did she receive a vote,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., in statement. He added, “I am pleased that after a significant delay, the Judiciary Committee has moved her nomination to the full Senate, where I believe she will be confirmed with strong bipartisan support.”
With only a simple majority needed, only five Republican votes are needed—if full Democratic support (44 Senators plus two Independents who tend to caucus with the Democrats) is given—to secure Lynch’s nomination.