Tags: Barack Obama | John McCain | Marco Rubio | Ted Cruz | Loretta Lynch | AG | attorney general

Senate Vote on Loretta Lynch Splits 3 Anti-Obama GOP Stalwarts

By    |   Thursday, 23 April 2015 08:41 PM

Three Republicans who regularly stand strong against President Barack Obama's foreign policy split Thursday on confirming Loretta Lynch as attorney general in a Senate vote that came nearly six months after her nomination and that bitterly divided the congressional chamber until the end.

Arizona Sen. John McCain was among 43 Republicans opposed to Lynch, 55, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. They primarily railed against Lynch's support for Obama's executive amnesty orders and other executive abuses.

"It is the job of the U.S. attorney general to represent the people of the United States and to 'do justice,'" McCain said. "It is not to serve as a policy instrument or cheerleader for the president.

"We've had years of that with Attorney General Holder," he said. "It has to stop with this nomination."

But GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire cited Lynch's qualifications and joined 56 Democrats to confirm her as the nation's first African-American female attorney general.

"I believe she is clearly qualified and has the necessary experience to serve as attorney general," said Ayotte, who is facing re-election in 2016.

"The best thing for the country is to have a new attorney general and close the book on Eric Holder," said Graham, who is considering a 2016 White House run. "My goal is to have a Republican president nominate the next attorney general, so we will not be forced to choose between Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch."

The senators sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which McCain chairs. They have strongly slammed Obama's foreign policy regularly in joint news statements and press conferences.

But their split on Lynch's confirmation was as stark as Thursday's Senate vote, which came after Obama nominated the prosecutor to succeed Holder in November and was delayed for weeks over an unrelated bill on abortion funding in legislation to protect sex-trafficking victims.

The stalemate incensed Democrats, with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois charging Republicans with forcing Lynch to "sit in the back of the bus."

Obama last week denounced the impasse as "crazy" and "embarrassing."

A compromise on the trafficking bill was reached and approved Wednesday, paving the way for the Lynch vote.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his Republican presidential candidacy last month, was traveling and did not vote.

Before the vote, however, he said on the Senate floor that Lynch's testimony in February to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Obama's amnesty orders rendered her "unsuitable for confirmation as attorney general of the United States.

"That was a shame," said Cruz, who came out against Lynch in the panel's 12-8 vote.

The Senate vote Thursday for Lynch was the lowest for any attorney general since Michael Mukasey won confirmation with 53 votes in 2007 after Democrats decried his refusal to describe waterboarding as torture.

Lynch had waited for a confirmation vote for a total of 166 days — longer than the last seven attorneys general combined.

Lynch is expected to be sworn in on Monday, and Obama said that the nation would be "better off" now that she has been confirmed.

Besides Graham and Ayotte, eight other Republicans broke ranks and backed Lynch. Ayotte and three others — Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Rob Portman of Ohio — also face re-election in 2016.

Those three senators are from states with major cities with large black populations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky backed the nomination, as did Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

"The Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder has too often put partisan and ideological considerations ahead of the rule of law," McConnell said. "It is a department desperately in need of new direction and leadership.

"I am hopeful that Ms. Lynch will use her lengthy professional experience and skills to provide the new leadership, reform, and improved relations with the Congress that the department sorely needs."

But Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and other Republicans decried Lynch as merely a "rubber stamp" for Obama's executive orders.

"Whether it’s executive amnesty, Hillary Clinton’s email coverup, or corruption on Wall Street, Ms. Lynch has made it clear that she will turn a blind eye to public corruption," Vitter said.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who announced his presidential bid this month, said he opposed Lynch because of "her failure to identify any limit on the president’s ability to ignore the laws passed by Congress.

"The president has every right to appoint nominees who support his policies, but I could not support Ms. Lynch because of every indication she has given that she will put her support of the president’s policies ahead of her support of the Constitution of the United States."

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has long battled the Obama administration on immigration, said before the vote that "we do not have to confirm someone to the highest law-enforcement position in America if that someone is publicly committed to denigrating Congress, violating law."

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe said the "importance of the office of the attorney general, the chief law enforcement office of the United States, cannot be overstated" in rejecting Lynch.

"If the nominee for attorney general can’t identify limits to the president’s ability to waive the law for a whole class of individuals, then the nominee cannot be trusted to fulfill the oath of office," he said.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican member of the Senate, also split with Graham on the Lynch vote.

He said that "a change in leadership was well overdue" after Holder's embattled six years as the head of the Justice Department.

Holder clashed repeatedly with Republicans, and he was held in contempt of Congress in June 2012 for withholding thousands of pages of documents related to the Fast and Furious operation.

Despite Lynch's "tremendous intellect, willingness to be a strong federal prosecutor and proven record of commitment to public service," however, Scott said he could not support her.

"Her confirmation to be our nation’s top law-enforcement officer does not exist in a vacuum," he said. "Her views on the important issues facing our nation — like immigration, the Affordable Care Act, and how to best protect our homeland — mattered greatly and weighed heavily on my decision.

"At the end of the day," Scott added, "Ms. Lynch demonstrated that she will not be the independent voice that our country needs at the Department of Justice."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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Three Republicans who regularly stand strong against President Barack Obama's foreign policy split Thursday on confirming Loretta Lynch as attorney general in a Senate vote that came nearly six months after her nomination and that bitterly divided the congressional chamber.
Loretta Lynch, AG, attorney general, Republicans, split, vote
Thursday, 23 April 2015 08:41 PM
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