The Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to report Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch out of committee and to the floor.
The vote was 12-8 with all Democrats voting in favor of Lynch and all Republicans voting against, except that Senators Hatch, Graham and Flake voted in favor of Lynch. The Senators voting against were Chairman Grassley, and Senators Sessions, Cornyn, Lee, Cruz, Vitter, Perdue, and Tillis.
Chairman Grassley explained his vote in detail here. Chairman Grassley is concerned that she will continue to politicize the Justice Department. As he stated:
Now, I’m confident that if she had demonstrated a little more independence from the President, she would’ve garnered more support here today. To illustrate why, we need to look no further than the recent confirmation of Secretary Carter to the Department of Defense. When he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary Carter demonstrated the type of independent streak that many of us were hoping we’d see from Ms. Lynch.
Most of the media reporting on the two nominations seemed to agree. Consider these headlines from several major news outlets regarding the Carter nomination:
• “In Ashton Carter, Nominee for Defense Secretary, a Change in Direction,” The New York Times• “New Defense Secretary airs differences with Obama over Ukraine, Gitmo,” Washington Times• “Obama Pentagon pick Carter says he won’t bend to White House Pressure to release Gitmo prisoners,” Fox News• “Defense nominee Carter casts himself as an independent voice,” The Washington Post
Compare those headlines to these regarding Ms. Lynch, from some of the very same news outlets:
• “Lynch Defends Obama’s Immigration Action,” The New York Times• “Loretta Lynch Defends Obama’s Immigration Actions,” Huffington Post• “Loretta Lynch Defends Obama’s Executive Action, NSA Surveillance,” Newsweek• “Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch defends Obama Immigration policies,” Washington Times
Secretary Carter was confirmed with 93 votes. Only 5 Senators voted against his nomination. That lopsided vote was a reflection of his testimony before the Senate, which demonstrated a willingness to be an independent voice within the administration.
I suspect Ms. Lynch will be confirmed, but I doubt she’ll garner 93 votes in support of her nomination. And to the extent her support isn’t as broad as Secretary Carter’s, it will reflect a reluctance to take the department in a new direction, and her unwillingness to identify meaningful limitations on executive power.
Eric Holder was the DNC Attorney General, let’s hope Ms. Lynch is not as well.