Nearly five months ago, Attorney General Eric Holder stepped down after six years of serving in the Obama Administration. He had a scandal-ridden term, with “Fast and Furious,” the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, and getting overly involved with local cases like the Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown cases. Nevertheless, it was a historical one as he was the first African-American to serve in the post.
About a month and a half after his resignation, President Obama announced his nomination for Holder’s replacement- Loretta Lynch. This immediately followed the Republican sweep in the midterm elections, so this definitely raised eyebrows as it felt like the administration wanted to keep this quiet. (Read more in my piece about the issue “Goodbye Eric Holder, Hello Loretta Lynch” ) This may finally become a reality as senate confirmation hearings were held this past week to vet Ms. Lynch for the position.
The main subject of the hearings was to confirm that she was not another Eric Holder. Believe it or not, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) asked her to be sure. That may be enough to secure a nomination, given that she has sailed through Republican senates on several occasions as a U.S. Attorney. Ms. Lynch did give a few answers that would secure a confirmation, and one big answer that would severely threaten that.
Her answer on the legalization of marijuana is something that conservatives would be able to back. It was the first time she truly separated herself from President Obama, claiming that “I can tell you that not only do I not support the legalization…Nor will it be the position should I be confirmed as attorney general.” Libertarians are less likely to jump on this, but social conservatives tend toward anti-drug policies.
On the legality of torture, specifically waterboarding, her answers also proved to be somewhat favorable to members on both sides of the aisle. This issue came to the surface recently as the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report about two-months ago that detailed the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture on its detainees. Whether or not waterboarding is legal is still a hot issue, but Ms. Lynch was clear, calling it “torture” and “thus illegal.” This may prove favorable, but these next few answers are certainly not.
With regard to the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ private phone records, she called that “certainly constitutional, and effective.” I guess that might be constitutional, except for that pesky Fourteenth Amendment that requires a warrant.
On immigration, Carl Hulse and Matt Apuzzo at the New York Times lay out the situation well, writing that “the Judiciary Committee contains some of the administration’s most strident critics, including [Sen.] Cruz and Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Mike Lee of Utah and David Vitter of Louisiana, all of whom have expressed outrage over the president’s immigration policy and his exercise of executive power in general.” Notably, her position on President Obama’s executive order that granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants was especially troubling. This transcript reveals in all in this exchange:
Sessions: I have to have a clear answer to this question: Ms. Lynch, do you believe the executive action announced by President Obama on November 20th is legal and Constitutional? Yes or no?
Lynch: As I’ve read the opinion, I do believe it is, Senator.
Senator Vitter has already promised to vote against confirmation, and Senator Sessions said “that’s a big problem for me.”
Well, it is also a big problem for John Hinderaker at Powerline who concluded his fiery article writing: “That clinches it. We cannot have another Attorney General who will sign off on blatant constitutional violations. Shortly after this exchange, Sessions announced that he will vote against Lynch’s confirmation.”
The vote has not happened yet, and this is likely to be a lengthy process considering senators want a thorough vetting after the last Attorney General. She may not be Eric Holder. She may even be better than Eric Holder. But that may not be enough. Conservatives should hold out for a good candidate, but given who is nominating them, Ms. Lynch may be the best we can get.