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 most important pledge Democratic presidential candidates can make Congress and contempt: What you need to know The Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? 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 Cruz Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage 2020 Democrat Bennet releases comprehensive government reform plan GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE (Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulWashington braces for Trump's next move on Iran Overnight Defense: Latest on Iran after Trump halts planed strike | Dems call Trump's approach 'erratic' | Key Republican urges Trump to retaliate | Esper reportedly getting Defense secretary nomination Overnight Defense: Officials brief Congress after Iran shoots down drone | Lawmakers fear 'grave situation' | Trump warns Iran | Senate votes to block Saudi arms sales | Bombshell confession at Navy SEAL's murder trial 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 divided over approach to election security The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills 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 IsaksonVA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump 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 CoatsHillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger House Intel to take first major deep dive into threat of 'deepfakes' House Intelligence panel to examine 'deepfake' videos in June 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 GrahamGOP senators divided over approach to election security GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks Trump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions 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 KirkEx-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby The global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year 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 McCainVeterans group to hand out USS John McCain T-shirts for July 4 on the National Mall Will we ever have another veteran as president? Meghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' 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 McConnellGOP senators divided over approach to election security Democrats seek to ban federal spending at Trump businesses Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break 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 panel advances bill to protect government devices against cyber threats House passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump MORE (R-Ohio), another top Democratic target in 2016.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranOvernight Defense: Officials brief Congress after Iran shoots down drone | Lawmakers fear 'grave situation' | Trump warns Iran | Senate votes to block Saudi arms sales | Bombshell confession at Navy SEAL's murder trial The 7 GOP senators who voted to block all or part of Trump's Saudi arms sale Senate votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale 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 RubioGOP lawmaker on Iran: Congress should vote on 'what's worthy of spilling American blood and what isn't' The Memo: Can Trump run as an outsider? Trump faces skepticism about Iran war authority from both parties 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 HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators 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.