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 Himpton HolderThe American experience is incomplete without its neighbor – The argument for Americanism Eric Holder: Trump administration has 'brought shame to the nation’ with family separations US law is not on the side of Mueller's appointment as special counsel 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 CruzIt is time for Trump to start selling space exploration Senate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Immigration drama grips Washington MORE (Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senators call for probe of federal grants on climate change Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Key ObamaCare groups in limbo | Opioids sending thousands of kids into foster care | House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for opioid treatments US watchdog: 'We failed' to stem Afghan opium production 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 BluntGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post Facebook gives 500 pages of answers to lawmakers' data privacy questions 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 IsaksonOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs Overnight Finance: Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority | McConnell calls it 'exercise in futility' | Kudlow warns WTO won't dictate policy | Mulvaney feud with consumer advocates deepens 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 CoatsGOP senator places hold on Trump counterintelligence nominee Civil liberties groups press Trump administration on NSA call record collection Trump’s ‘Syraqistan’ strategy is a success — and a failure 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 GrahamSenate panel advances three spending bills Trump says he will sign executive order to end family separations Trump backs narrow bill halting family separations: official 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 Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill 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 McCainMulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Trump mocks McCain at Nevada rally Don’t disrespect McCain by torpedoing his clean National Defense Authorization Act 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 McConnellFive things to know about efforts to repeal Obama's water rule Mulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Senate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays 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 PortmanSenate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families Lawmakers, businesses await guidance on tax law MORE (R-Ohio), another top Democratic target in 2016.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Former USA Gymnastics CEO pleads Fifth at hearing GOP, Trump at odds on pardon power 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 RubioNew fears over Chinese espionage grip Washington Rubio heckled by protestors outside immigration detention facility Bill to protect work licenses of student loan debtors is welcome development 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 HatchRaces to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Senate panel to hold hearing next week for Trump IRS nominee On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending 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.