AG nominee clears Senate panel
President Obama’s nominee for attorney general cleared a hurdle Thursday, as a Senate panel signed off on Loretta Lynch over the objections of some Republicans.
Lynch, whose nomination was pending before the committee for 110 days, received unanimous support from Democrats on the committee and was also backed by three Republicans.
Majority Republicans raised some concerns about Lynch but are anxious for a new person to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, with whom they have had a contentious relationship over the years.
“Eric Holder is ready to go, and I wish him well,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who voted in favor of Lynch. “Quite frankly, it would be good to turn the page and have a new attorney general.”
Republicans Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) also voted for Lynch, saying they don’t agree with her on every issue, but the president has the right to choose his own people.
The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), said it is “finally, finally, finally” time to confirm Lynch after her nomination has been delayed for so long.
Democrats are more optimistic about Lynch, a federal prosecutor who is known for being tough on crime.
Lynch would become the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general, which observers say puts her in a unique position to ease tensions between police and the black community.
“For a country with a record on the issues of race that our country has, to be presented with the first African-American female attorney general in our history is significant,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Some Republicans held up Lynch’s confirmation over concerns about her stance on immigration and her handling of a high-profile money laundering case.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who voted against Lynch, delayed the committee vote earlier this month to get more answers from her on those contentious issues.
Grassley said at the time that he was concerned about Lynch’s perceived “independence” from the White House.
He and other Republicans on the panel pressed Lynch on whether she would back President Obama’s executive order allowing nearly 5 million illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S.
Lynch voiced support for the orders, assuring opposition from some GOP critics of the president’s immigration policies.
“I remain unconvinced that she will lead the Justice Department in a different direction [than Holder],” Grassley said at the hearing.
Republicans are using Lynch’s nomination as an opportunity to attack President Obama’s executive order on immigration.
“Every day we allow the president to erode and destroy the powers of Congress, we are allowing the president to erode and destroy the voice of the people,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said.
Meanwhile, other Republicans raised concerns about Lynch’s role as the federal prosecutor in a money laundering case.
British bank HSBC paid a hefty $1.9 billion fine over claims it laundered money for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has led the charge against Lynch for letting the bank’s top executives off without any jail time. He called it a “slap on the wrist.”
Ultimately, enough Republicans backed Lynch to push her through the committee and on to a Senate confirmation vote.
With unanimous support from Democrats and three Republicans on the committee, Lynch only needs one more Republican to vote for her to be confirmed by the full Senate.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.