Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) is strongly opposed to the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the next attorney general, saying she has made it clear she is committed to to enforcing what he considers President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty orders and ignoring the laws on the books.
Vitter is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held confirmation hearings for Lynch on Wednesday. He says her answers, especially on Obama’s immigration policy, should disqualify her from leading the Justice Department.
“I have a lot of concerns, but the single biggest reason, by far, is President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty and the fact that she’s defending it and would carry it forward,” said Vitter.
During the eight hours of testimony, Lynch made it clear she believes Obama’s unilateral action to confer legal status on some five million people in the country illegally is “reasonable” and is a policy she will defend. Lynch further stated that it made sense to focus immigration enforcement the most recent illegal arrivals and those who pose a criminal threat .
During his questioning, Vitter sought to convince Lynch that Obama’s action directly conflicts with existing immigration law and was not impressed with her response.
“I thought she came up way short, quite frankly. I cited the statutes relied on. One of them makes it clear that any case like this has to be considered on a case by case basis. And I asked her, ‘Is an action that covers five million illegal aliens really acting case by case?’ She would never address that question directly, I think for a very obvious reason. That doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Vitter.
Vitter says he also found Lynch strangely unconcerned about how Obama’s change in policy seems to trump current law and greatly diminishes the attorney general’s position when it comes to immigration enforcement.
“I also asked her about her role in this because the statute makes very clear that the attorney general is supposed to be in the middle of this, making these case by case determinations. The administration’s plan is not to involve the attorney general in any major way. Again, she didn’t have a direct answer to that,” he said.
Does Vitter see Lynch as a carbon copy of current Attorney General Eric Holder when it comes to partiality toward the Obama administration? The senator says yes and no.
“I think it would be largely the same. She wouldn’t be as much of a lightning rod as Eric Holder. Arguably, that could make her even more dangerous because she would operate under radar more. But I think in terms of substance and policy and outcome it would be the same,” said Vitter.
Nonetheless, early indications suggest Lynch is probably headed for confirmation. Two Republicans on the panel, Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have suggested they are inclined to support the nomination. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who is not on the panel has already indicated his backing for Lynch. However, Vitter says observers may be surprised by how many votes are cast against Lynch.
“I think lots of members are still making up their minds. I think you’re going to see a very significant number of no votes. I’m not predicting we’ll block the confirmation as I would hope we’ll do, but you’re certainly going to see a significant number of no votes,” he said.
Immigration is not only a major issue concerning the Lynch nomination, but the Senate will soon take up the effort to block funding for the president’s unilateral action as well. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives approved funding for the Department of Homeland Security through end of Fiscal Year 2015 without providing funds for Obama’s orders or the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program that Obama unilaterally instituted in 2012 to grant legal status to young people brought to the U.S. illegally when they were very young, a group often labeled as “dreamers”.
Sixty votes are needed to pass the bill out of the Senate and on to Obama’s desk. Vitter knows it will a tough fight. He praises Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for allowing a full and open debate on this and other issues. However, the senator will be working to pass the bill in it’s current form.
“Everybody’s going to have their opportunity for amendments. Folks who want to take some of the language out of the bill can put up an amendment. I’m going to oppose that. I strongly support all of the House bill. We’ll see where we end up at the end of that process. I hope that we keep the House bill wholly or largely intact and then pass it on to the president,” said Vitter.
Beyond what he considers the ignoring of existing immigration enforcement statutes, Vitter is also fuming that Obama’s actions make life harder for American citizens and legal immigrants to find work.
“It’s not just setting enforcement priorities. It’s going further. It’s giving these people a parole, a different legal status for at least three years at a time. It’s also giving them a work permit, when there’s plenty of statutory law that says they cannot work here in the United States legally,” said Vitter.
Getting to 60 votes will require at least six Democrats to come on board. Vitter doesn’t know of any that are prepared to buck the president right now but he says their own words in reaction to the president’s actions in November may push a few to join the Republicans.
“This executive amnesty is a big deal. There were certainly Democrats who stated that they opposed it at the time, who stated that the president overstepped his bounds,” said Vitter. “How are they going to show that? How are they going to demonstrate that position? We’re going to find out in the next few weeks.”
Department of Homeland Security funding is currently set to expire in late February.