WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans are showing divisions over President Barack Obama’s pick for attorney general, with some citing the president’s executive actions on immigration as reason to block Loretta Lynch but others open to her selection.
Though it is early, this week’s comments by some GOP senators suggested that Lynch’s nomination could win substantial Republican support. Lynch, a federal prosecutor in New York, began visiting senators this week in an effort to build support for her confirmation. The Senate is expected to vote on her selection early next year, when the chamber will be run by Republicans. Democrats have said they think the Senate will approve Lynch, despite calls by conservatives to derail some Obama nominations if he doesn’t relent on his recent orders saving millions of people from deportation.
Lynch, 55, would be the first black woman to hold the post. She would replace Eric Holder, who announced his departure in September. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Obama’s immigration orders are illegal and the next attorney general should not defend them. “I don’t see how a person can serve as attorney general if they’re going to participate in a massive nullification of American law,”
Sessions said Wednesday. “There are a lot of questions about the president’s executive actions and a lot of policies that I think people find very troubling,” said No. 2 GOP Senate leader John Cornyn of Texas, who is also on the committee. He said it was premature to say whether Lynch’s nomination would survive. Another Republican on the Judiciary panel, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said Lynch will face numerous questions about Obama’s immigration actions.
But he called Lynch “a good, solid choice” and said the country needs an attorney general. “She could talk me out of voting for her, but at the end of the day, we’ve got enough problems in this country,” said Graham. “The world is falling apart. We need a chief law enforcement officer in this country.” Lynch met with five senators Tuesday and planned to meet more than a dozen others this week. She’s already visited the Judiciary committee’s departing chairman, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and his presumed successor next year, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley did not characterize his view of Lynch.
But another veteran Republican on the Judiciary panel, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, said he didn’t think Obama’s actions on immigration should affect Lynch’s nomination. “A lot of these Republicans feel the current attorney general is not doing the job the way he should.
So they ought to be happy to get somebody there who could,” he said. Hatch was referring to frequent clashes between Holder and GOP lawmakers over a bungled gun-running investigation along the Southwest border and other programs.
Another Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, said: “My default position is elections have consequences, give the president his nominees unless there’s a specific reason to deny it, and I haven’t seen that yet.”
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