Obama introduces Loretta Lynch as AG pick: What say ye, Republicans?

Loretta Lynch, a no-nonsense US Attorney, seems to be a solid choice to replace retiring US Attorney General Eric Holder. But will Republicans drag their feet on her confirmation until after the GOP takes control of the Senate?

Susan Walsh/AP
President Barack Obama listens as US Attorney Loretta Lynch speaks after Obama nominated Lynch to be the Attorney General.

President Obama on Saturday introduced US Attorney Loretta Lynch, the Harvard-educated daughter of a North Carolina librarian and a Baptist minister, as his choice for America’s top cop.

At a press event at the White House, Obama described Ms. Lynch as "tough, fair and independent."

Soft-spoken but hard-punching, Ms. Lynch looks from most angles like an “excellent and historic choice” to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the New York Daily News opines.

"Loretta might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists and still has the reputation for being a charming people person," Obama said in announcing the nomination.

But the political machinations around the transfer of power from the nation’s first black attorney general to the woman who could become the nation’s first black and female attorney general is already shadowing Lynch’s upcoming nomination hearings.

Obama has officially left it to the Senate leadership to decide whether to wait until the new Republican majority is seated in January or push her nomination through with the current “lame duck” Democrat-controlled Senate.

What eventually unfolds could impact pressing US policy, including America’s vexing illegal immigration problem, as well as the troubled working relationship between the legislative and executive branches in Washington.

Wrapped up in Lynch’s nomination and timing of her confirmation are hard feelings in Congress left behind by Mr. Holder, and even demands from some Republicans that the next AG immediately disavow Obama’s stated plan to use executive power by the end of the year to provide amnesty to more illegal immigrants currently in the US.

Obama, for his part, hopes Lynch can help cement part of his legacy as his presidency nears its end, including his campaign promise to close the terrorist detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and attempts to stop racial profiling by police.

For six years, Republicans feuded publicly and near-constantly with Holder, even holding him in contempt over what they called foot-dragging during the investigation into the failed “Fast and Furious” gun-running sting. For his part, Holder focused several of his investigations and lawsuits on states like Texas and South Carolina – the heartland of Obama opposition.

According to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa, one of Holder’s chief antagonists, Republicans want to be part of the nomination process as they seek a clean break from what many saw as an ideologically-driven Holder era.

“I’m hopeful that [Lynch’s] tenure, if confirmed, will restore confidence in the Attorney General as a politically independent voice for the American people,” Sen. Grassley said.

Given that, a decision by Senate Democrats to hold confirmation hearings immediately would sour a tenuous agreement reached at a luncheon Friday between Republicans and Obama to "move America forward," as House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R) of California said. 

At the same time, Republicans certainly don’t hold all the cards, either, even as they are itching to use the confirmation hearings as a way to set a new tone for the Justice Department.

For one, Lynch, who is seen as a Washington outsider without ties to Obama’s inner circle, has already been confirmed twice by the Senate for two separate stints as US attorney. Her background makes her another historic choice for America’s top law enforcement job – which could make it hard for Republicans to put up a big fight.

Plus, her resume speaks for itself.

In New York, Lynch “continually impressed her staff with her ability to quickly grasp the essentials of a case as her office wrangled multibillion-dollar settlements from various errant banks while prosecuting a wide range of terrorists, gangsters, and cybercriminals,” writes Michael Daly in the Daily Beast.

To be sure, given Holder’s controversial record on civil rights – his department, for one, became embroiled in the handling of the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown police shooting cases – Lynch’s views on race and the law could be a point of discussion if the Senate waits until the new Republican majority is seated to have confirmation hearings.

Lynch has acknowledged, as Holder has, that she’s been the victim of racial bias, telling a Harvard publication that asked about it in 2012: “You mean when I was a young associate when I went to take a deposition and everyone assumed I was the court reporter?”

But she’s also made statements that fall closer to modern conservative thought on race, where focus is more on individual character than legal advocacy as a way to improve equity.

“You can get to know me, you can spend time with me, and if your worldview changes as a result of that, fine,” she said in 2012. “But it’s really not my job to try to change it.”

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