As of this morning, Loretta Lynch was nominated to serve as U.S. Attorney General 125 days ago. By some measures, the federal prosecutor, the first African-American woman ever to be nominated to the post, has waited longer than any previous Attorney General, for reasons Senate Republicans have struggled to explain.
What's more, it's been more than two weeks since Lynch cleared
the Judiciary Committee, a move that ordinarily prompts the Senate leadership to schedule a confirmation vote on the floor soon after. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, delayed the vote for no reason, and still hasn't said exactly when the vote will be, other than a vow to bring the nomination to the floor "next week."
Will she prevail or not? At this point, the votes are probably
in place -- there are 46 Senate Democrats and four
Senate Republicans who support her (Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, and Orrin Hatch). That's 50, with Vice President Biden breaking the tie.
's David Hawkings noted
this week that this will very likely be the closest-ever vote for an A.G. nominee.
As the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, Lynch has earned just the sort of tough but fair reputation that's customarily made for bipartisan smooth sailing in the Senate. But at least three-quarters of Republicans are going to oppose her anyway, mostly because of a single position she's taken as the nominee: Obama was on solid legal ground in deferring deportations of as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants. For essentially the first two centuries under our Constitution, senators afforded the president free rein to stock his Cabinet as he chose, except in the most extraordinary circumstances.... It would not have been newsworthy at all -- let alone a rationale for disqualification -- for an attorney general nominee to take the same position as the president who nominated her in a balance of powers battle with Congress. (In fact, it would have been much more problematic for a nominee to openly break with the president in such a dispute.)
It's almost as if Senate Republicans believe if they defeat Lynch, Obama will nominate an A.G. who opposes the White House's immigration policy. (He won't.) But as Hawkings added, "The single biggest reason Republicans oppose Lynch is that she disagrees with them on a single matter of public policy."
The Senate simply isn't supposed to work this way. Indeed, it's never worked this way before, and it arguably can't effectively work this way now.
As I've acknowledged before, Obama's executive actions certainly take us into new and uncomfortable territory. That doesn't necessarily make them illegal or even necessarily improper, but it's perfectly fair for opponents to raise balance of power concerns about them. But what we're seeing here is a tendency among many conservatives to cast pretty much every argument between the branches as the ultimate test of whether Republicans are willing to do what it takes to rescue the republic from Obama lawlessness.
I'd just add that there's no real upside to the Senate GOP strategy. They look bad confirming Ash Carter quickly, but slow-walking Lynch. They're keeping Eric Holder in office -- and if they derail Lynch, that just leaves the A.G. they despise in office even longer. They're exacerbating partisan tensions. They're dragging out a fight that gets them nothing except the appearance of being petty, knee-jerk partisans, with no payoff at the end.
Republicans are doing it anyway.