Senate Judiciary to Grill Obama’s AG Nominee

Republicans will challenge Obama administration use of executive actions

Loretta Lynch
Loretta Lynch / AP
January 28, 2015

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold two days of hearings starting Wednesday to consider Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, during which Republican members are expected to use every opportunity to challenge the Obama administration’s executive actions on a wide range of issues.

The Judiciary Committee is now in the hands of Senate Republicans, and Lynch can expect pointed questions from GOP members on the Obama administration’s stances on everything from the IRS to terrorism to prosecutorial discretion in enforcing federal marijuana laws.

In a statement, Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) said he will press Lynch on the Obama administration’s executive actions regarding illegal immigration.

"I met with Ms. Lynch earlier this month and didn’t get any straight answers from her," Vitter said in a statement. "She needs to be completely forthright with the Committee about her support for some of President Obama’s most dangerous policies—including executive amnesty."

Other Republicans representing border states, such as Jeff Flake and John McCain, both of Arizona, will almost certainly also have questions for Lynch regarding border security.

According to a press release, Vitter also plans to ask Lynch about Operation Choke Point, a Justice Department program that targeted banks that worked with businesses such as payday lenders, firearms dealers and other "reputation risk" industries.

The Obama administration’s decision to take a hands-off approach in states that have legalized marijuana will also get some play in the hearings.

"There’s got to be prosecutorial discretion, and you probably don’t have the resources to prosecute every crime," Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) told Politico. "But you surely don’t tell your enemies what you’re going to prosecute or not prosecute."

A second panel of witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing will also give Republicans a chance to ding the administration. Among the witnesses is Sharyl Attkisson, an investigative reporter whose work has been highly critical of the Obama administration. Attkisson recently accused the administration of spying on her.

"The Senate Judiciary Committee is concerned about a number of free press issues, as are many journalists," Atkisson told the Daily Signal, where she is a contributor. "They want to touch on some of those issues at the hearing for the attorney general nominee."

Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of True the Vote, a conservative vote-monitoring outfit, will also testify at the hearing. True the Vote is one of several organizations that says it was illegally targeted by the IRS for its politics.

Senate Democrats are urging their colleagues across the aisle to focus on Lynch’s qualifications.

"Ms. Lynch is a dedicated public servant with a strong commitment to justice and to keeping our communities safe," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) said in a statement. "Ms. Lynch deserves to be judged on her own record.  I am confident that if we stay focused on Ms. Lynch’s impeccable qualifications and her reputation for fairness, she will be quickly confirmed by the Senate."

Lynch, who has been tapped by the administration to replace Eric Holder, the outgoing attorney general is an experienced federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York and is respected on both sides of the aisle. Despite strong opposition from Senate Republicans to parts of the Obama administration’s agenda, Lynch’s nomination is expected to clear the Senate.