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 HolderBiden under pressure to pick new breed of federal prosecutors Obama says Senate will vote again on voting rights Obama: Voting rights bill must pass before next election 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 CruzBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill 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 BluntBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon passes on Senate campaign 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 IsaksonCritical race theory becomes focus of midterms Former Georgia ethics official to challenge McBath Loeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run 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 CoatsBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Former Trump officials including Fiona Hill helped prepare Biden for Putin summit: report Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? 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 GrahamGraham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar Trump takes two punches from GOP The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands 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 KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls 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 McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' 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 McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire 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 PortmanBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet On The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (R-Ohio), another top Democratic target in 2016.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranGraham: Bipartisan infrastructure pay-fors are insufficient This week: Democrats move forward with Jan. 6 probe Bipartisan senators ask CDC, TSA when they will update mask guidance for travelers 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 RubioSenate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal Break glass in case of emergency — but not for climate change Democrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins 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 HatchDrug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 Financial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted 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.