No stalemate to be had
Kyle Palmer | Thursday, March 19, 2015
Loretta Lynch, currently the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as United States Attorney General on Nov. 8, 2014. At the start, Lynch was well-respected and well-liked by senators from both parties, and it appeared her confirmation would be quick and largely bipartisan. “Republicans warm to Loretta Lynch – Her charm offensive is working,” a POLITICO headline read.
Lynch’s confirmation prospects seem much more gloomy today. You read that correctly: Lynch has still not been confirmed — or rejected, for that matter — more than four months since her nomination. She only passed confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee three weeks ago, with support of three Republicans – Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The reason she’s waiting for a full confirmation vote? Politics, of course, but not for reasons I agree with.
The current U.S. Attorney General is Eric Holder, a close personal friend of Obama’s. As a cabinet member, he gained the ire of Republicans more than any other member of the Obama administration with the possible exceptions of Kathleen Sibelius (former Secretary of Health and Human Services who was in charge of implementing the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”) and Obama himself. He found himself in hot water in 2011 for the failed sting known as “Operation Fast and Furious.” While it sounds as if it were an installment of the popular movie franchise, this operation was intended to be a firearms smuggling sting but failed and allowed more than 2,000 firearms to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. In Senate and House hearings, Holder has been rude to members of Congress and dodged their questions and found himself in contempt of Congress in 2012. It may go without saying, but I personally am not a fan of Holder.
All this goes to say I am surprised Senate Republicans are holding up Lynch’s confirmation vote. Holder made an agreement with Obama that he would continue to serve as Attorney General until a replacement was confirmed. Yes, one of the most objectionable cabinet holders is continuing to serve in his post. Lynch, who was very cordial during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and has appeared likable and unafraid of disagreeing with Obama, is still waiting to assume the post. Senator John Cornyn of Texas jokingly asked Lynch during her committee hearing, “You’re not Eric Holder, are you?” Lynch chuckled and replied, “No I’m not, sir” (which you can find here on Vine). Lynch asked the senator to take note of “the independence that I’ve always brought to every particular matter,” and she said that when merited, she would say no to Obama, according to the Associated Press.
The delay comes down to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom I have long admired for his conflict resolution skills in a divided Congress, using the confirmation as a bargaining chip to pass a human trafficking bill and raise objections to Obama’s executive actions on immigration. McConnell vowed to change how the Senate works and to bring back credence to the moniker of the world’s greatest deliberative body. He certainly has, holding more votes in the Senate in January than past Majority Leader Harry Reid did all of last year. Yet McConnell still seems not immune to the delays of bargaining. He has said he will not allow a confirmation vote on the Senate floor until the human sex trafficking victim aid bill passes. This week, it failed to meet the 60-vote threshold needed for passage when only four Democrats joined Republicans in supporting it.
Two things need to happen: Democrats need to vote for the bill’s passage, as all Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee already did, and McConnell should bring Lynch’s confirmation vote to the floor regardless of the outcome of this bill. The two should be interpreted as separate issues for the simple fact that they are separate issues. If this happens, both parties get to boast about taking action against human trafficking, Obama gets his nomination confirmed and Holder is finally shown the door. For once in politics, all the players can win. Amid a new season of “House of Cards,” it would be nice if the American people saw Congress as more than a Machiavellian game where everyone only ever loses.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.