Lynch’s Republican Backers Holding Firm

Posted March 24, 2015 at 4:09pm
Lynch appears to have a narrow majority backing her nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Lynch appears to have a narrow majority backing her nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

GOP supporters of President Barack Obama’s pick to be the next attorney general are sticking by her, meaning Loretta Lynch is still on track for confirmation — if she can ever get a vote.

That’s even as announced Republican opposition to Lynch continues to mount with the nomination sitting on the Senate calendar, effectively held hostage as part of the dispute between the parties about abortion-related language contained in a bill designed to combat human trafficking.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., became the latest Tuesday morning to join the list of lawmakers opposing Lynch.

“The Obama Administration has a record of overstepping its legal authority on immigration, in implementing the Affordable Care Act and in imposing anti-energy regulations. Despite her qualifications, I am not confident that Loretta Lynch will exercise the independence needed to stand up for the proper separation of powers, and I will not support her nomination,” Capito said in a statement.

But Lynch’s small cadre of GOP backers have been unwavering, and she appears to already have the minimum votes needed to get through the chamber.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, a former Judiciary chairman, said he was not being pressured to flip his vote on the floor from the committee level.

“The outside groups and others, inside and outside, know better than to pressure me on that because I said I’m going to support her and I am. I think she’s competent and has an excellent reputation,” Hatch told reporters.

Hatch said while he hoped Lynch would be confirmed, he understood the frustration of GOP leadership over the Democratic-led filibuster of the trafficking bill, which has prompted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to subject the Lynch nomination to a seemingly indefinite delay.

“I just feel bad that she’s caught up in this — in this matter, but I don’t blame our side for … being upset that we can’t seem to pass a trafficking bill to help our young women and young men,” he said. “It’s just mind-boggling to me, and you know, thank Planned Parenthood and NARAL for that.”

Abortion-rights supporters have blasted the language in the trafficking bill, which they view as an expansion of the Hyde Amendment restrictions through its application to a different bucket of money, namely the fines paid by those found guilty of certain criminal offenses related to trafficking.

McConnell indicated Tuesday that the two issues were still very much tied together.

“I continue to hope that we can get past the dilemma that you’ve all witnessed on the trafficking bill, and you know, go forward with that … and then turn to the Loretta Lynch nomination. I know there are people on both sides of the aisle trying to figure out how to get past the impasse, and I hope they can do that, and I wish them well,” McConnell said.

The No. 2 Republican, Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, predicted Lynch would be confirmed once the trafficking bill passes the Senate, though he personally will vote against her.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been urging his fellow Republicans to vote “no.”

“Loretta Lynch has said that the president’s unconstitutional executive orders are ‘reasonable,’” he told radio host Hugh Hewitt late last week. “Then if that is the case, no Republican should vote for her confirmation, because she is going to implement what the president himself said 22 times would be unconstitutional actions.”

But even McCain’s buddy, Sen. Lindsey Graham, was not swayed by his vocal opposition. The South Carolina Republican reaffirmed his support for Lynch’s confirmation Tuesday, even as the number of Republican senators registering opposition continued to rise.

“All relationships have their bumps,” Graham said, speaking of his friendship with McCain.

Graham’s view is that it’s time for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to be replaced and the confirmation of Lynch appears to be the only path to achieving that goal, with Holder planning to stay in office until his successor is confirmed.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., also told reporters Tuesday he was continuing to support Lynch. Another known GOP supporter is Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, but there could certainly be others. Senators who face re-election tests in 2016, such as Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., are among the shrinking list of those who have not made public announcements about how they will vote.

Four Republicans would be enough to confirm Lynch provided Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. shows up to cast a tie-breaking vote, and she has exactly four supporters now.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who has been the longtime leader of his party on the Judiciary Committee, said Monday that Lynch was approaching a month pending on the Senate floor, after being first nominated late in 2014, when he still held the Judiciary gavel.

Democrats have also said that given GOP opposition to moving forward with Lynch’s nomination last year, they would’ve been unable to get so many lifetime appointments to the federal bench through to confirmation before ceding control at the start of the current Congress.

“It is time to stop delaying and making excuses. It is time to stop playing politics with our law enforcement and national security,” Leahy said in a statement. “There is only one holdup to Ms. Lynch’s nomination to be Attorney General, and that is the party that the American public has entrusted to govern the Senate.”


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