Confirmation is near for nation's first Black woman Attorney General
By Ron Wynn
Despite frequent questions designed to either demean or degrade both President Barack Obama and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the confirmation process for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch looks on track for a speedy confirmation.
Even as Senate Republicans were pressing with demands that things change in the office, there was general consensus Lynch would be confirmed without incident.
She testified extensively during Wednesday's opening nomination hearings in Washington. Lynch did not appear Thursday during the second day. But her lengthy testimony seemed to have won over most of the Senators at the hearing.
"The question for me and a lot of members on this side is whether Ms. Lynch is committed to leading the Department of Justice in a new direction," Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said as he gaveled open the second day of hearings into her nomination.
"She's clearly a skilled and competent lawyer," Grassley said, while complaining that Lynch's answers during day-long testimony Wednesday were "indirect." Grassley said he would be following up with more questions in writing..
when top committee Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked the nine outside witnesses testifying Thursday for a show of hands if they were opposed to Lynch's nomination, not one hand went up.
The second and final day of her confirmation hearing featured testimony from outside experts. Several of them were summoned by Republicans mainly to amplify criticism of President Obama and current attorney general Eric Holder. Republicans deride Holder as a liberal firebrand and Obama cheerleader who has failed to cooperate with Congress.
These witnesses included attorney Jonathan Turley, who has charged the Obama administration engages in executive overreach, and Catherine Engelbrecht, who says she was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for leading a conservative group. Engelbrecht described the Justice Department as "an increasingly rogue agency."
Democrats, not surprisingly, took issue with the GOP focus on Obama and Holder.
"Barack Obama is not the nominee. That may come as a surprise to some who heard the questions. Eric Holder is not the nominee," Leahy said Thursday.
In her appearance Wednesday, Lynch pledged independence from Obama and promised to work with the Republican-led Congress. She offered support for some controversial Obama administration policies, including the president's unilateral protections for millions of immigrants in the country illegally.
But she also suggested she would provide a departure from Holder.
"If confirmed as attorney general, I would be myself. I would be Loretta Lynch," she said, when asked how senators could be assured that she would lead differently.
If approved, Lynch - the top federal prosecutor since 2010 for parts of New York City and Long Island - would become the nation's first black female attorney general.
Several of the more conservative committee members were frustrated as they tried to draw her into criticism of Obama or Holder. "Try as I might, there has been nothing I have been able to ask you that has yielded any answer suggesting any limitations whatsoever on the authority of the president," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Lynch disagreed with that characterization, saying the American people, and not the president, would be "my client and my first thought."
But despite all their bluster, few think Republicans will hand Democrats a gift by rejecting the nomination of the country's first Black woman attorney general.