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. HolderVenture capital firm sues ex-Uber CEO for fraud Justice Dept. to meet with journalism group on subpoena guidelines Documents reveal the email alias Loretta Lynch used in office 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 CruzTed CruzThe Memo: Trump tries to quiet race storm Cruz calls for Justice Department investigation into Charlottesville violence THE MEMO: Trump's base cheers attacks on McConnell MORE (Texas) and Rand PaulRand PaulGlimmer of hope in bipartisan criminal justice reform effort Trump barrage stuns McConnell and his allies No. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight 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 BluntGOP debates tax cuts vs. tax reform Five tough decisions for the GOP on healthcare Lacking White House plan, Senate focuses on infrastructure 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 IsaksonJohnny IsaksonTrump signs Veterans Affairs bill at New Jersey golf club No. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight Savings through success in foreign assistance 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 CoatsThe Hill's 12:30 Report DOJ warns the media could be targeted in crackdown on leaks Conway: Leaks of Trump's calls should have 'chilling effect' 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 GrahamTrump's Charlottesville comments push North Korea from spotlight 'Dreamers' deadline looms for Trump Graham: Trump must do more to distance himself from white supremacists 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 KirkImmigration critics find their champion in Trump Trump's nominee to lead USAID has the right philosophy on international aid McConnell: Senate to try to repeal ObamaCare next week 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 McCainMcCain defends McMaster from right-wing media attacks After ObamaCare repeal failure, look to the center Challenger’s super PAC accuses Flake of betraying voters in new ad 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 McConnellMitch McConnellTrump quietly putting his stamp on the courts Democrats see ObamaCare leverage in spending fights OPINION | Progressives, now's your chance to secure healthcare for all 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 PortmanRob PortmanThe fight to protect the Affordable Care Act isn’t over GOP senators rally to McConnell's defense amid Trump attacks Sex trafficking bill would make the internet a wasteland MORE (R-Ohio), another top Democratic target in 2016.

Sen. Jerry MoranJerry MoranGOP senator wants classified briefing on North Korea McConnell faces questions, but no test to his leadership Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment 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 RubioThe Memo: Trump tries to quiet race storm Trump tweets on trade, military, Alabama, but not Charlottesville Venezuelan leader put a hit on Marco Rubio: report 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 HatchThe Memo: Trump tries to quiet race storm Senators push FTC to finalize changes to contact lens rule White House clarifies: We condemn all violence 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.