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November 8, 2014

Prez Obama selects Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as US Attorney General

This brief press release from the White House Friday afternoon made official that it was President Obama's "intent to nominate U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to be the Attorney General of the United States."  This lengthy Politico article, headlined "Lame duck looms over Lynch confirmation," highlights some politics dynamics surrounding this decision, and closes with a substantive point I care most about:

President Barack Obama will nominate Loretta Lynch to be the new attorney general on Saturday, setting up what could prove the first major post-midterms Senate showdown.

Obama will call for Lynch to be confirmed as soon as possible, but White House aides say he’ll defer to Senate leaders on whether to press ahead with a vote during the coming lame duck session, or to wait until next year, when the Republicans will officially be in the majority.

Senior Democratic aides, meanwhile, said no final decision on timing has been made, but they are strongly leaning towards moving in the lame duck.  A confirmation vote could be used as leverage in other deals the White House and leaders are seeking in the lame duck.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, made clear that he’s completely opposed, issuing a statement Friday evening promising “fair consideration,” but that Lynch’s “nomination should be considered in the new Congress through regular order.”

The question is a significant one — there’s precedent in President George W. Bush pushing through Michael Mukasey’s nomination in a lame duck.  But at the outset of what’s supposed to be a new effort toward cooperation, Obama and Senate Democrats would be doing the exact opposite by moving confirming such a senior Cabinet official in between the midterms and the Republican takeover of the majority.

That could give Republicans an easy excuse to point to for blame on future gridlock.  But by waiting until the new GOP members are sworn in, Obama would risk not getting his choice — or any choice — confirmed for the job.

Lynch, a United States attorney from New York, has kept a low profile, but has quietly been in top consideration for weeks at the White House. Lynch would be the second woman in the post, and the second African American, following Holder.  That could make opposition from the Republican Senate more politically difficult, especially as she’s been previously confirmed by acclimation twice previously.

A career prosecutor who’s been confirmed twice by the Senate to one of the most prominent U.S. attorney positions, Lynch has experience with many of the major issues that a new attorney general would confront — including terrorism and financial crimes. She does not have a deep personal relationships with Obama or his close aides, or a resonance with the Democratic base eager to see the president pick fights more post-midterms.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the outgoing Judiciary Committee chairman, issued a statement praising Lynch’s selection, but made no firm commitment on timing.  “I have spoken with the President about the need to confirm our next attorney general in a reasonable time period, and I look forward to beginning that process,” Leahy said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who’ll head the Judiciary Committee when Republicans take over, said he was generally supportive of Lynch’s nomination but said he was looking forward to learning more about her.  “As we move forward with the confirmation process, I have every confidence that Ms. Lynch will receive a very fair, but thorough, vetting by the Judiciary Committee. U.S. Attorneys are rarely elevated directly to this position, so I look forward to learning more about her, how she will interact with Congress, and how she proposes to lead the department,” Grassley said.  “I’m hopeful that her tenure, if confirmed, will restore confidence in the Attorney General as a politically independent voice for the American people.”...

And timing isn’t the only problem Lynch would face. Sen. Jeff Sessions’ office sent out a reminder to reporters Friday of recent comments by Sens. Sessions, McConnell, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul all saying that any nominee for attorney general would have to disavow Obama’s plan to provide amnesty to certain illegal immigrants through executive action. Obama has said repeatedly, including at his post-election press conference Wednesday, that he will go forward with the immigration reform executive actions before the year, unless Congress passes an immigration reform bill....

Obama, White House aides have said, sees the next attorney general as being a key figure in helping him complete several issues he sees as fundamental to the legal legacy he wants, including sentencing reform and figuring out a solution to closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

I am very pleased and excited by this news for many reasons, particularly because I think the selection of Lynch at least indirectly suggests that Prez Obama is more interested in moving forward with sentencing reform than in picking fights with the new Congress. Among the various names discussed as possible nominees, I view Lynch as probably the least controversial choice as well as the person most likely to be able, practically and politically, to keep up the sentencing reform momentum that outgoing AG Eric Holder made a signature concern of his final years in his position.

November 8, 2014 at 10:17 AM | Permalink


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Harvard Law grad.

A biased racist.

Attacked productive male enterprises such as banks that unloaded toxic loans on Europeans, but not the black thug lawyers and former gang bangers in the federal government that threatened their charters if they did not lend to irresponsible minorities. Extorted $billions to finance Obama's follies.

Ideological extremist. What is her only true ideology? Lawyer rent seeking. Wants to try terrorists as criminals, wasting $billions of worthless lawyer government make work fees, taking decades of appellate practice to resolve. Close Guantanamo to generate massive legal costs.

Hypersensitive to the slightest offense. Someone thought her a court reporter at one deposition in her life, now she is a victim of racism, rather than the reality, a highly privileged, and undeserving affirmative action beneficiary. Just like her boss.

A treasonous warlord in the War Against Drugs, enriching the enemies of our nation and the pillagers of the governments of our friends in Mexico and Afghanistan. A funder of the Taliban and of the Mexican Drug Cartel, instead of enriching our American tobacco companies.

Likely to continue DOJ stonewalling of discovery of the multiple scandals allowed by Holder.

Each of the above would make her completely unacceptable. Together they make for a waking nightmare for the American people

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 9, 2014 1:24:23 AM

If ideological extremism were a disqualifying condition, conservative Republicans would never be nominated for any post requiring confirmation ever again...or at least not until the Tea Party zealots ultimately go the way of the ostensibly extinct John Birch Society zealots...from whom the Tea Party folks descended.

By your standard, Supremacy, there'd never be another Republican Supreme Court Justice. In other words, Supremacy, please explain why it's OK to have an Alito on the court for life but not this woman in charge of the DOJ in the balance of Obama's presidency.

Posted by: John K | Nov 9, 2014 10:11:26 AM

Personally, I suspect any person who's made their bones as a federal prosecutor of having the soul of a thug...which ought to make her ideal for your 1-2-3 notions of how the justice system ought to work.

Posted by: John K | Nov 9, 2014 10:16:04 AM

John: The extremism to which you refer, left wing or right wing, is always a masking ideology. People get to debate them at confirmation hearings. They are false fronts, and completely diversionary and irrelevant. The real, universal ideology, never ever ever brought up at confirmation hearings? It is indoctrinated into all lawyers during IL. Those who fail to fall in line are expelled, and do not make in into the profession. Any opposing it later is crushed no matter how rich, powerful, or smart, with no legal recourse whatsoever.

Rent seeking to the extreme.

No matter the detriment to the public, even to the degree of allowing 9/11 to take place, taking out 3000 lives and $7 trillion from the economy. Why were those Arabs taking pilot training not arrested? PC. All PC is case and a lawyer bread winner.

So I see no difference between Scalia or Sotomayor or Ginsburg. Indeed, crime dropped 40%. Lawyer unemployment followed. Scalia played a leadership role in several decisions and wrote one decision knocking down mandatory sentencing guidelines in all jurisdictions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 9, 2014 10:44:02 AM

The difference between a thug and someone favoring incapacitation with extreme prejudice is that I am soft on victims. They generate no lawyer make work jobs, and may rot otherwise. Kill just one violent career criminal and spare hundreds of victims across a busy career and $millions in damages to the economy. In LWOP, one is granting them a license to kill better than that of James Bond. Naturally, the murder rate in prison is an order of magnitude greater than the number executed by the states.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 9, 2014 10:51:54 AM

concern for extreme remarks would sell better if not joined with additional extreme remarks ("soul of a thug")

Posted by: Joe | Nov 9, 2014 11:36:09 AM

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