Former Justice Department Official Hans von Spakovsky says Senate Republicans are finally realizing Loretta Lynch is an unacceptable choice to become the next attorney general, but he isn’t sure enough of them will oppose her to prevent her from getting the job.
Lynch, who is currently a federal prosecutor in New York, received generally positive comments from Republicans when she was nominated to replace Eric Holder late last year. Even after confirmation hearings in which she vigorously defended President Obama’s unilateral action on immigration, there seemed to be a general consensus that she would be confirmed.
Now, more than two weeks after the Lynch nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee, the vast majority of Republican senators say they will vote against her. By some head counts, only four Republicans still support her, the bare minimum needed to get confirmed.
The four Republicans plus 46 Democrats would give Lynch 50 votes and Vice President Joe Biden would then break the tie.
Why are Republicans increasingly sour on Lynch? Von Spakovsky says her testimony is not wearing well over time.
“The senators have had a chance to really think more carefully about what she said and how dangerous it is to have an attorney general who’s unwilling to tell the president when he is going beyond the authority he’s got under the law and under the Constitution,” said von Spakovsky.
Von Spakovsky served as counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights during the early days of the George W. Bush administration. He also served on the Federal Elections Commission.
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., were the three members of the majority to back her in committee. Von Spakovsky is not optimistic that any of them will join the opposition.
“I think they’ve come out the way they have because they have this general view that a president has the ability to pick his nominees. But he doesn’t have the ability to pick nominees who aren’t going to enforce the law and abide by the rule of law. Frankly, the non-answers she gave indicate that she’s going to be just like Eric Holder in helping the president bend, break and change the law whenever he wants to,” said von Spakovsky.
Sen. Graham said he is supporting Lynch mainly to get someone else in charge at the Justice Department and end the tenure of Holder. While he agrees with part of that logic, von Spakovsky says that rationale alone is not enough to overshadow the problems with Lynch.
“I certainly agree it’s time for a change but I don’t think it’s time for a change and putting someone in who is basically going to put in a version of Holder 2.0. I think they ought to instead push the president to instead put someone ethical and professional in who actually believes in the rule of law,” said von Spakovsky, who admits Obama is unlikely to nominate anyone palatable to most conservatives.
“That’s what any reasonable president would do. I’m not sure he will because he seems to have decided to spend his last two years being as confrontational as possible with Congress as opposed to trying to work with them,” said von Spakovsky.
This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced there would be no vote on the Lynch nomination so long as Democrats continue to hold up legislation to combat human trafficking. Democrats refuse because of language in the bill banning taxpayer-funded abortions.
Is this a shrewd move by McConnell or is he just playing politics? Von Spakovsky thinks the strategy is fully justified.
“I think that is a fair parliamentary tactic and I think it is something that is the right thing to do here, where the argument they’re having over this debate is Democrats voting against language they previously voted to approve. That in itself seems unfair and inequitable,” said von Spakovsky.