GOP faces tough decision on Lynch vote

GOP faces tough decision on Lynch vote

Senate Republicans face a tough vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation, which has fast become a litmus test on President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Oppose Lynch, and they’ll be ignoring a sparkling performance at a Senate hearing last month that won good reviews from members of both parties, who agreed she was qualified to lead the Department of Justice.

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The “no” votes will also feed into Democratic arguments that the GOP is needlessly blocking confirmation of the first black woman to be attorney general, something that will be used against the Republican Party in 2016, when it seeks to defend 24 Senate seats.

If confirmed, Lynch would replace Eric HolderEric H. HolderEric Holder group to sue Georgia over redistricting Eric Holder to Trump: 'Taking a knee is not without precedent' Juan Williams: Momentum builds against gerrymandering MORE, the attorney general despised by most Republicans.

The problem is immigration and Lynch’s comments that Obama’s executive actions shielding millions from deportation were probably legal.

That’s raised the ire of two presumptive GOP presidential candidates, Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets MORE (Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Authorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient GOP feuds with outside group over analysis of tax framework MORE (Ky.), who are both loudly opposing her nomination — something that could make it difficult for many Republicans to back her.

On Tuesday, several centrist Republicans sought to deflect questions about their votes.

“I’m waiting until they’re done in the committee to decide on that,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal Another health funding cliff puts care for millions at risk Top Senate Dem: We're going forward with understanding we can work with White House on DACA MORE (R-Mo.), who turned his back and walked away from a follow-up question on Lynch and immigration.

“I’m in the process of making that consideration,” said Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonAmeriCorps hurricane heroes deserve a reward — don’t tax it Price’s job seen at risk after Trump slams private jet use Senate passes bipartisan Medicare reform bill MORE. The Georgia Republican then interrupted a follow-up question to repeat what he had just said, adding only, “that’s all I can tell you right now.”

“I have no comment on that,” Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsDon’t throw the baby out with the BATwater Overnight Cybersecurity: DHS bans agencies from using Kaspersky software | Panel calls Equifax CEO to testify | Facebook pulling ads from fake news Mueller investigation focusing on social media's role in 2016 election: report MORE (R-Ind.) said in response to a question about Lynch’s defense of Obama’s executive actions.

All three Republicans are up for reelection in 2016.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement MORE (R-S.C.), who is mulling a long-shot presidential bid himself, compared those using Lynch’s nomination as a proxy battle over immigration to famed former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.).

“Joe McCarthy said, if you don’t agree with me that that guy is a communist, then you’re a communist,” Graham said. “I don’t buy that kind of logic. I don’t support the executive order. This logic that they’re espousing basically goes like this: We’re not going to get a new attorney general until they agree with me that President Obama’s executive orders violate the law. We’re never going to get a nominee from this president that says that, so this is all about political posturing.”

Few Republicans are publicly echoing Graham.

Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkGiffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Stale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections Immigration critics find their champion in Trump MORE (R-Ill.), a centrist Republican seeking reelection in deep-blue Illinois, said he’s a “lean no” on Lynch’s nomination.

“Generally I would think because Obama insists so heavily on very political attorney generals, that the nominees will tend to reflect his hard-left policies and do anything regardless of the law,” Kirk said.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (R-Ariz.), a close friend of Graham’s who could face a primary challenger in 2016, voiced criticism of Lynch and wouldn’t say how he’ll vote.

“I’m very concerned about her support for the president’s executive orders on immigration,” he told The Hill. “I’m adamantly opposed to the president’s actions, which were unconstitutional, and apparently she’s endorsed [the executive actions].”

With all 46 senators caucusing with Democrats expected to support Lynch, only four Republicans would have to back her to win confirmation. (Vice President Biden would break the tie.)

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.), however, will want to avoid a confirmation vote that would put a handful of his members on the spot — and make them targets in primary elections.

The best scenario for the GOP, if Lynch is to be confirmed, would be for a large number of Republicans to back her.

It’s just not clear where those votes will come from.

“I’m against the executive actions, but I haven’t had a chance to review her nomination yet,” said Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Reddit hires first lobbyists Senate panel approves bill compelling researchers to ‘hack’ DHS MORE (R-Ohio), another top Democratic target in 2016.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranTIMELINE: The GOP's failed effort to repeal ObamaCare The Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal IT modernization measure included in Senate-approved defense policy bill MORE (R-Kan.), who also faces voters in 2016, said he hasn’t made up his mind yet but that he’s “certainly interested” in getting to the bottom of Lynch’s defense of Obama’s executive actions.

“I haven’t had a chance to review the transcripts of her hearing ... so we’re not prepared to make an announcement,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE (Fla.), another Republican mulling a presidential bid.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet on Lynch’s nomination Thursday. The panel could vote to approve her nomination, but it is expected to punt the decision past the recess.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP eyes limits on investor tax break Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot MORE (R-Utah), the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised Lynch at length, denouncing his colleagues trying to play politics over the vote.

“If it was a Republican president, maybe a Republican president wouldn’t have appointed her, but this is a Democrat president who has, and I don’t see any reason to disqualify her or to play with her nomination,” Hatch said.