It was six months ago that Attorney General Eric Holder announced his retirement, though he said he would stay on until President Obama nominated, and the Senate confirmed, his successor at the Justice Department. Given the scope of Republican opposition to Holder – the phrase “unbridled disgust” comes to mind – it seemed likely GOP lawmakers would rush Holder out the door.
Little did we know at the time that Republican senators would prepare to keep the A.G. around indefinitely.
Holder spoke this morning at the Center for American Progress, where he heard a few intentional laughs about his unique professional circumstances.
“There is no place I’d rather be in my closing days as Attorney General than here with you all. Well, at least these should be my closing days.“Given the Senate’s scheduling and delays in considering Loretta Lynch’s nomination for a vote, it’s almost as if the Republicans in Congress have discovered a new fondness for me! I’m feeling love there that I haven’t felt for some time. Where was all this affection over the last six years?”
To borrow a Homer Simpson line, it’s funny because it’s true.
Six weeks after Holder announced his departure, Obama introduced U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch as his nominee as the nation’s next Attorney General. Republicans, eager to rid themselves of Holder and impressed with Lynch’s sterling credentials and qualifications, seemed to embrace the president’s choice.
It was easy to imagine at the time that the new year would begin with a new Republican-led Congress and a new Attorney General. Instead, for reasons that even they can’t fully explain, GOP lawmakers have found a way to keep Holder in the same position they ostensibly want him to leave.
Remember, Senate Democrats could have tried to rush Lynch through the confirmation process during the lame-duck session late last year – before Dems lost their majority status – but Republicans implored Democrats not to. The power should rest with the incoming majority, GOP senators said.
The outgoing Democratic majority obliged, expecting Republicans to be at least somewhat responsible. After all, there were no substantive objections to Lynch and the GOP was desperate to see Holder go. Republicans had a built-in incentive to act reasonably.
And yet, here we are. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his team have subjected Lynch to the longest delay of any A.G. nominee in history – for reasons they haven’t even tried to explain – and this week, McConnell even broke his word about bringing Lynch’s nomination to the floor for a vote this week.
The irony is under-appreciated: Republicans wanted Holder to step down, and he did. Republicans wanted Obama to nominate an uncontroversial successor, and he did. Republicans wanted Democrats not to vote on Lynch in the lame-duck session, and they obliged.
Months later, the Senate’s GOP majority can’t quite bring itself to do what Republicans say they want to do. In fact, as far as McConnell & Co. are concerned, they hope to defeat Lynch – again, for reasons they’ve struggled to articulate – raising the prospect of Republicans keeping Holder at his current post until January 2017.
Can you really blame the Attorney General for asking facetiously, “Where was all this affection over the last six years?”