President Obama’s pick to serve as the next attorney general is having a hard time finding Republican supporters.
To be confirmed by the Senate, attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch only needs four Republicans to support her nomination. But it is unclear where those votes will come from.
Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (Utah) is the only Republican so far who has signaled his intention to vote for Lynch, though several others have spoken favorably about her.
Lynch’s confirmation was pushed back by two weeks Thursday amid “anonymous" objections from some Republicans. But Democrats say they are dragging their feet.
"What we’re trying to do is get an indication from her of the independence that she’s going to have from the White House,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (R-Iowa) told The Hill.
"I think [Attorney General Eric] Holder is running the Justice Department like a wing of the White House,” he added. "That’s not right, and I want her to show us that she can be independent.”
Holder has had a testy relationship with Republicans at the best of times. The nomination of Lynch was initially seen as a move that had the potential to ease those tensions.
Lynch received a friendly reception from Republicans during her 8-hour confirmation hearing last month. And one GOP-friendly argument in her favor is that her confirmation would bring down the curtain on Holder’s tenure.
"Admittedly, a lot on my side have felt that they would like to get a new attorney general there, because they’re not very happy with the current one,” said Hatch, “and this is one way that can happen. “
Other Republicans such as Grassley and Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) have indicated they are impressed with Lynch’s qualifications as a federal prosecutor, a role in which she enjoyed a reputation for being tough but fair on crime.
Lynch enjoys universal support from Senate Democrats who are urging Republicans to confirm her.
"This woman has as close to a perfect record as I have ever heard,” Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDems get it wrong: 'Originalism' is mainstream, even for liberal judges Human rights leaders warn against confirming Gorsuch Feinstein sees slipping support among California voters: poll MORE (D-Calif.) said.
“I can’t understand why people would vote against her,” said Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerWarren: 'Today is a great day... but I'm not doing a touchdown dance' Schumer calls Trump admin 'incompetent' after healthcare bill pulled Trump blames Democrats for ObamaCare defeat MORE (D-N.Y.). “Everyone was impressed with her. I heard that from numerous colleagues on the other side."
Still, many Republicans aren’t sold.
Grassley said he pushed the committee vote back to Feb. 26 to give her more time to answer questions. He said the delay is simply his way of being “thorough.”
Republicans are pressing Lynch to disavow President Obama’s executive action lifting the threat of deportation from up to 5 million illegal immigrants.
Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsSanders: 'What do the Russians have on Mr. Trump?' Poll: Trump controversies make him more popular among supporters More than ever, Justice must demand a special prosecutor for Trump-Russia probe MORE (R-Ala.) indicated there may be a “slide in support" for Lynch as Republicans “reevaluate” her nomination in light of her unwillingness to oppose the immigration move.
"I’m not going to vote for her, because I’m not going to vote for the chief law enforcement officer and rubber stamp this policy,” Sessions told The Hill.
"I know there are a considerable number of people that share my views,” he added.
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and John Cornyn (Texas), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, have also said they will oppose Lynch’s nomination.
Meanwhile, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has expressed strong reservations about Lynch because of her role as the federal prosecutor in a money laundering case.
HSBC paid a hefty fine to settle charges that it funneled more than $200 million for Mexican drug cartels and terrorists, but Vitter said he is disappointed no criminals charges were filed against the bank.
"I don’t think this committee has gotten enough facts,” Vitter said.
Democrats counter, however, that some in the GOP are trying to erect unrealistic hurdles for Lynch.
"Let’s face it: There are some people here that will not vote for her unless she says what they want her to say, that the president committed an illegal act by these executive orders” on immigration, Schumer said.
"Well, that’s for the courts to determine,” he added. "It is not fair to hold her up, because you’re never going to get her to say that answer, if that’s what you’re waiting for."