The Republican presidential contenders in the U.S. Senate were mostly united against the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General.
As Breitbart News reported, the Senate voted on Thursday morning 66-34 to end the filibuster and proceed to a vote. The final vote on the confirmation itself was 56-43.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY) — both of whom have officially launched their presidential campaigns — voted against ending the filibuster and then against confirming Lynch. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) voted against cloture, but skipped the final vote. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), viewed as an extreme long-shot presidential candidate but still indicating he will throw his hat in the ring later this summer, voted in favor ending the filibuster and then in support of Lynch’s nomination.
Lynch drew sharp objections from Republicans on a variety of topics, including her support for Obama’s executive amnesty orders, currently blocked from being implemented by a federal court order. A number of Senate Republicans publicly criticized her as likely to continue what they viewed as the disregard for the Constitution and rule of law that characterized Holder’s tenure as AG, including being the first cabinet member in history to be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal.
In 2006, Lynch signed an amicus brief arguing that the term “living fetus” was “hopelessly vague,” in opposition to the federal ban on partial birth abortions, a procedure that is opposed by not just pro-lifers, but the majority of Americans. When questioning Lynch on this exact issue, Graham commented that this “doesn’t disqualify you from serving.”
Cruz, Rubio, and Paul all cited Lynch’s support for Obama’s executive amnesty as one of the reasons for their opposition to her confirmation. Lynch’s “consistent refusal to specify any limitations on the power of the President disqualify her from serving as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer,” said Cruz. “[S]he supported the Administration’s boundless legal theory to justify ignoring our nation’s immigration laws. In my view, this makes her unfit to be the Attorney General.”
“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,” said Rubio. “Pushed on the president’s unprecedented claim that through prosecutorial discretion he can unilaterally change substantive immigration law, she declared this position ‘reasonable.'”
“The Attorney General must operate independent of politics, independent of the president and under the direction of the Constitution,” said Paul in a statement issued earlier this year. “I cannot support a nominee, like Mrs. Lynch, who rides roughshod on our Constitutional rights.”
Rubio and Paul also mentioned her position on civil asset forfeiture, an issue that has been gaining increased attention among criminal justice reform advocates.
With Thursday’s vote, Lynch becomes the first African-American woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General. Her predecessor, Eric Holder, announced he was resigning last September after a series of scandals, including his alleged role in Operation Fast and Furious, his refusal to investigate IRS targeting of conservatives, and the Department of Justice’s tapping phone lines and emails of journalists who were reporting on the Obama administration.
Statement by Sen. Cruz:
Senate Republicans had ample opportunity to stop the nomination of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General and demand that the President nominate someone who will respect the rule of law. I oppose cloture on her nomination because it creates a path for the Democrats to confirm the nominee with a simple majority. While Ms. Lynch has earned a reputation as a no-nonsense prosecutor, her consistent refusal to specify any limitations on the power of the President disqualify her from serving as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer. In multiple rounds of testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Ms. Lynch would not identify a single instance in which her actions would differ from Attorney General Eric Holder, and she supported the Administration’s boundless legal theory to justify ignoring our nation’s immigration laws. In my view, this makes her unfit to be the Attorney General.
There is a reason the Senate is given constitutional authority over “advice and consent.” We were not elected to be a “fraternal order,” as Reagan famously put it. We were elected to defend the Constitution. It is a somber occasion to vote “no” today. But, a cloture vote in favor of an Attorney General who has shown she will be a rubber stamp for executive power is simply not compatible with our sworn duty as US Senators—which is to support and defend the Constitution.
Statement by Sen. Rubio:
When we assess the suitability of a nominee to be attorney general, it is not enough to question whether that nominee is a good lawyer or an honorable person. We must also consider what type of attorney general that nominee is likely to be and whether he or she is willing to say “no” to the president if no is the answer the law and the Constitution fairly give.
I opposed Loretta Lynch’s nomination because of her failure to identify any limit on the president’s ability to ignore the laws passed by Congress as well as her obvious enthusiasm for civil asset forfeiture, which can deprive innocent people of their property rights without due process. 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.
Many hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee offered countless opportunities for her to show independence from the president, yet she declined to do so time and again. Pushed on the president’s unprecedented claim that through prosecutorial discretion he can unilaterally change substantive immigration law, she declared this position “reasonable.” Asked whether a conservative president could unilaterally lower taxes by simply not collecting them above a certain rate, she demurred. In fact, she seemed to indicate that she couldn’t imagine a limit to such claims to power.
I regret that Ms. Lynch failed to demonstrate that, if confirmed, she would be willing to tell the president that there are some things that he simply does not have the constitutional power to do. Because she failed to demonstrate that she would be willing to draw a line where appropriate, I voted against her confirmation.
Statement by Sen. Paul:
Mrs. Lynch has a track-record of violating the individual freedoms granted to us by our Constitution. She considers civil asset forfeiture to be a “useful tool,” while I consider it to be an infringement on the Fifth Amendment. She remains non-committal on the legality of drone strikes against American citizens, while I believe such strikes unequivocally violate rights granted to us by the Sixth Amendment. Mrs. Lynch also supports President Obama’s calls for executive amnesty, which I vehemently oppose.
The Attorney General must operate independent of politics, independent of the president and under the direction of the Constitution. I cannot support a nominee, like Mrs. Lynch, who rides roughshod on our Constitutional rights.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.