U.S. Attorney General nominee picks up support

By Erica Werner and Eric Tucker

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch picked up her first Republican endorsement last Thursday en route to likely confirmation as the first black woman in the top U.S. law enforcement job.

"I believe she's not only qualified but exceptionally well-qualified and a very good person, to boot," Sen. Orrin Hatch, a top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, declared on the second day of Lynch's confirmation hearing to replace Eric Holder, who is deeply unpopular with some Republicans.

Another committee Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake, said later he, too, intended to back Lynch. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said he was inclined to do the same.

That seemed to all but guarantee Lynch's approval by the Judiciary Committee in coming weeks, since she needs only two Republican votes on the panel if all Democrats back her. From there, her nomination would move to the full Senate, where she also is likely to win approval

Lynch, 55, the top federal prosecutor since 2010 for parts of New York City and Long Island, promised senators a fresh start from Holder, who has clashed repeatedly with congressional Republicans during his six years in the job. Republicans deride him as a liberal firebrand and cheerleader for President Barack Obama, and can barely wait to be rid of him.

That accounted in part for the swell of Republican support for Lynch after a daylong confirmation hearing last Wednesday where she calmly pledged independence from Obama and promised to work with the Republican-led Congress.

"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.

Lynch did not appear last Thursday at the final day of her confirmation hearing, which instead featured testimony from outside witnesses, several of whom were summoned by Republicans to amplify their criticism of Obama and Holder. None opposed Lynch.

Last Wednesday, Lynch aligned herself with Holder on certain policy decisions, agreeing with his assertions that interrogation by waterboarding is torture and illegal, that civilian courts are an appropriate venue to prosecute suspected terrorists captured overseas, and that the department's limited resources are best reserved for prosecuting violent offenders. She offered support for some controversial Obama administration policies, including the president's unilateral protections for millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

But on other points, she also struck a firmer law-and-order stance, announcing without hesitation her support for the death penalty - a change in tone from Holder.

Published: Mon, Feb 02, 2015