Loretta Lynch took an enormous step toward becoming the nation’s first Black woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted by a 12-8 margin to approve her nomination to replace Eric Holder.
Lynch, a proud, dignified woman who was born in Greensboro, NC, and has both undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard, will have her nomination moved to the floor of the full Senate as early as next week. If she gets the support of the entire Democratic contingent, she would need just four Republican votes for confirmation after the 2013 change in the Senate rules requiring a simple majority to stop a Republican filibuster.
That should be a fairly easy task, since she already got the nod from three Republicans —Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)—on the Senate Judiciary Committee. But some members of the GOP, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), have said they would oppose Lynch as retaliation against the president for the executive action he took on immigration protecting up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Texas halted the president’s new program just as it was about to go into effect.
The political wrestling surrounding her nomination gives Lynch an early taste of what she has in store battling a Republican-controlled Congress. Her predecessor, Holder, was a despised enemy of Republicans on Capitol Hill—in many eyes because he showed no hesitancy in defying Republican demands. Congress even held Holder in contempt of Congress during Obama’s first term because he refused to hand over documents Republicans sought in the ATF gun-running scandal.
She takes over amidst an extremely tense racial atmosphere in the country. But as a U.S. Attorney in New York, Lynch is used to racial tinderboxes.
“I supported advancing Loretta Lynch’s nomination to the floor today because her record of service over several decades shows that she is well qualified to be attorney general,” Hatch said. “There is good reason to believe that Ms. Lynch will be more independent than the current attorney general and make strides toward recommitting the department to the rule of law.”
Hatch said that Lynch’s record “does not include anything sufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of confirmation.”
Senate Democrats were fuming that Lynch’s nomination has been pending for 110 days, which is longer than any other attorney general nominee in recent history, according to media reports.
“Political fights over immigration should not hold up Loretta Lynch, DHS funding or anything else,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D) from New York, where Lynch serves as U.S. Attorney. “But the hard right, upset over the president’s immigration policies, is grasping at straws to have a fight, any fight, over immigration. Loretta Lynch, a supremely qualified nominee for a vital national security and law enforcement post, should never have been pulled into the fray.”
But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) isn’t backing down, warning that the vote won’t be as smooth as the White House might like.
“The answers Ms. Lynch gave in this hearing room, in my judgment, render her unsuitable for the position of chief law enforcement official,” Cruz said.