By Tony Perkins
Loretta Lynch isn’t Eric Holder — but that still might not be enough to win over Senate conservatives. At yesterday’s Judiciary Committee meeting, the New York prosecutor was on the hot seat — but it was former Attorney General Holder’s record that was on the stand.
The only man in Washington more unpopular than President Obama, Holder spent six years enforcing one thing: the American people’s distrust of government. As the nation’s AG for six years, Holder heaped disgrace after disgrace on one of the most powerful agencies in government. Loretta Lynch is the White House’s best hope at redemption for a Department struggling to pick up the pieces after Fast and Furious, conservative targeting, terrorist trial, voter ID, and marriage law scandals.
At every turn, Senate conservatives tried to distinguish Lynch’s positions from her failed predecessor, carefully working through a host of issues that could mean more headaches for an agency already hanging on by a moral thread. To land the job, Lynch, a respected New York federal prosecutor, will need three GOP votes.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) won’t be one of them, as the Alabama leader made quite clear after hearing Lynch’s position on the President’s controversial amnesty order. Showing a surprising disregard for the immigration law her agency would be responsible for enforcing, Lynch said, “I believe that the right and obligation to work is shared by everyone in this country, regardless of how they came here.”
Asked if she thought the President’s actions were “legal and constitutional,” Lynch said yes. That didn’t sit well with plenty of conservatives, who see the President’s executive order, which would roll out the welcome mat to as many as five million people who entered the country illegally, as a gross violation of U.S. law. “…You’re here defending this, and I believe it’s indefensible,” Sen. Sessions fired back. “I just want to tell you, that’s a big problem for me… President Obama’s executive amnesty represents one of the most breathtaking exertions of executive power in the history of this country… and the legal opinion attempting to justify this circumvention of Congress was issued by the Attorney General’s Office of Legal Counsel.”
On social issues, Lynch’s views were a mixed bag. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tackled the issue of same-sex “marriage,” which the Holder DOJ lawlessly advanced by refusing to defend DOMA in court. “What’s the legal difference,” Sen. Graham pressed, “between a state ban on same-sex marriage being unconstitutional but a ban on polygamy being constitutional?” In an obvious dodge, Lynch responded that she hadn’t been involved in the arguments before the Supreme Court so she was “not comfortable undertaking legal analysis without having had the ability to undertake a review of the relevant facts and the precedent there. So I certainly would not be able to provide you with that analysis at this point, but I look forward to continuing the discussion with you.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) saw plenty of red flags in Lynch’s position on life, pointing out that a majority of Americans — as well as the Supreme Court — supported the ban on partial birth abortion. Yet she, judging by her questionnaire, personally wrote briefs that defended one of the most brutal and inhumane practices on the planet. Of all the cases to involve herself, Sen. Grassley asked, why this particular issue? Lynch tried to deflect the question, claiming that she was concerned about how the law would be implemented and not the procedure itself.
Later on, Sen. Sessions asked Lynch point blank whether she supported marijuana legalization. “Senator, I do not.” Although her position on pot pits her against President Obama’s personal views, Lynch said flat out, “Not only do I not support legalization of marijuana—it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently, to support the legalization, nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as Attorney General.”
With Republicans in the Senate majority, Lynch can only advance from the Judiciary Committee if the GOP approves of her nomination. The question is, do they trust her to do what Eric Holder didn’t: honor and uphold the Constitution?
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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