Con­firm­ing Lynch an up­hill bat­tle

GOP sets up lame-duck power strug­gle over Obama AG pick

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN AND PHILLIP SWARTS

The Se­nate’s top Repub­li­cans said this week­end that con­firm­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s late-sea­son at­tor­ney gen­eral nom­i­nee, Loretta Lynch, should be put off un­til next year when the GOP has con­trol of the cham­ber, set­ting up the first lame-duck power strug­gle with a po­lit­i­cally dam­aged pres­i­dent.

Mr. Obama had put off an at­tor­ney gen­eral fight un­til after the elec­tion for fear of hav­ing it be­come a trou­ble­some flash­point for fel­low Democrats on the bal­lot, but with that be­hind him, and fac­ing a GOP that would con­trol all of the hear­ings start­ing next year, the pres­i­dent and his Demo­cratic al­lies on Capi­tol Hill are try­ing to speed Ms. Lynch through this year.

GOP leader Sen. Mitch McCon­nell and his top lieu­tenants have told them to slow it down, promis­ing a fair set of hear­ings but de­mand­ing the time to prop­erly ex­am­ine her record.

“Ms. Lynch will re­ceive fair con­sid­er­a­tion by the Se­nate. And her nom­i­na­tion should be con­sid­ered in the new Congress through reg­u­lar or­der,” Mr. McCon­nell said in a state­ment after the pres­i­dent’s rare Satur­day per­son­nel an­nounce­ment, made at the White House just hours be­fore Mr. Obama left for a week­long trip to Asia.

No spe­cific ma­jor ob­jec­tions have yet been raised over Ms. Lynch, a Har­vard-trained lawyer, who now serves as U.S. at­tor­ney for the East­ern Dis­trict of New York. She held that job in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion as well.

“It’s pretty hard to be more qual­i­fied for this job than Loretta,” Mr. Obama said as he in­tro­duced her at the White House on Satur­day. “She has spent years in the trenches as a pros­e­cu­tor, ag­gres­sively fight­ing ter­ror­ism, fi­nan­cial fraud, cy­ber­crime, all while vig­or­ously de­fend­ing civil rights.” Not all law­mak­ers agree. Some Repub­li­can se­na­tors said it was un­usual to el­e­vate some­one from a U.S. at­tor­ney’s po­si­tion to the top post in the Jus­tice Depart­ment. Cur­rent At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. was the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral un­der Pres­i­dent Clin­ton be­fore Mr. Obama tapped him to be the na­tion’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cer in 2009.

Congress re­turns this week after more than three months of va­ca­tion and cam­paign­ing back home, save for a brief spurt of leg­is­lat­ing in mid-Septem­ber.

Await­ing law­mak­ers are bills to keep the gov­ern­ment funded for fis­cal year 2015, ex­pired tax cuts that most law­mak­ers want to re­new, the an­nual de­fense pol­icy bill and now, thanks to Mr. Obama’s move late last week, a re­quest for bil­lions of dol­lars to fund a new surge of U.S. troops the pres­i­dent has or­dered de­ployed to Iraq.

If Democrats wanted to, they could prob­a­bly force Ms. Lynch through. Thanks to Democrats’ use of the so­called “nu­clear op­tion” to change the cham­ber’s rules last year, over­com­ing a fil­i­buster takes just a majority vote — and there are 55 mem­bers of the Demo­cratic cau­cus, in­clud­ing a num­ber who are re­tir­ing or who lost their seats and won’t ever have to face vot­ers again.

But Repub­li­cans said that would be a bad first step for Democrats who are about to end up in the mi­nor­ity in the Se­nate for the first time in eight years.

“If we’re go­ing to have an era of good faith here, we need to be­gin with the con­fir­ma­tion process for one of the most im­por­tant jobs in the coun­try, and that’s at­tor­ney gen­eral,” West Vir­ginia GOP Sen.-elect Shel­ley Moore Capito told “Fox News Sun­day.”

Repub­li­cans have al­ready de­tailed a se­ries of tough ques­tions Ms. Lynch would have to an­swer, in­clud­ing her le­gal read­ing of the laws gov­ern­ing the pres­i­dent’s ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers and im­mi­gra­tion. It could be one of sev­eral flash­points for Mr. Obama’s im­mi­gra­tion move, in which ac­tivists ex­pect he will grant ten­ta­tive le­gal sta­tus to mil­lions of the il­le­gal im­mi­grants now in the U.S.

That’s not to men­tion all of the other cleanup chores she will have to per­form in Mr. Holder’s wake as he still bat­tles Congress over the pace of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the IRS’s tar­get­ing of the tea party, his han­dling of the botched “Fast and Fu­ri­ous” gun-walk­ing op­er­a­tion and his treat­ment of race-re­lated crim­i­nal cases. The GOP-con­trolled House has even held Mr. Holder in con­tempt of Congress for re­fus­ing to turn over doc­u­ments.

Many in the GOP have called for Mr. Holder’s ouster over any com­bi­na­tion of those is­sues — which is ironic given some Repub­li­cans’ cur­rent stance that he should stay on just a lit­tle longer.

“Eric Holder has said he’s not go­ing any­where soon. So it’s not like the po­si­tion isn’t go­ing to be filled,” Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Repub­li­can, told CNN’s “State of the Union” pro­gram this week­end. “It’s an im­por­tant po­si­tion. It’s one that needs to be filled. And we will give the pres­i­dent’s nom­i­nee ev­ery con­sid­er­a­tion, but would like to do that, con­sider that, next year when the new Congress is seated.”

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