O-Pinion: Sen. Thom Tillis opposes Loretta Lynch nomination

Loretta Lynch
Loretta Lynch Getty Images

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis announced this morning that he will vote against Greensboro native Loretta Lynch for U.S. attorney general, saying she does not represent enough of a break from Eric Holder.

“I have immense respect for Loretta Lynch both personally and professionally,” Tillis, R-N.C., said in a written statement. “However, in light of the testimony at her confirmation hearing and her subsequent refusal to provide straightforward answers to written questions from myself and other Senators, it appears that she would represent little, if any, tangible policy or management difference from Attorney General Eric Holder. I cannot vote to confirm a nominee who will not make a firm and explicit commitment to reverse the partisan politicization that presently exists at the Department of Justice.”

Tillis said he worried that Lynch would continue to pursue a lawsuit against North Carolina’s voter ID law, and said she supports President Obama’s executive action on immigration without congressional approval. He said that if Lynch is confirmed, he hopes that she will “most importantly, restore the Department’s reputation for legal integrity that is divorced from politics.”

It is contradictory for Tillis to cast Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district in New York, as likely to run the Justice Department through a political lens when his vote against her confirmation is itself a political statement.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-8 Thursday morning in favor of Lynch’s nomination. The full Senate could vote next month. Committee Republicans Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake voted for Lynch, who would be the first black female to serve as AG. Other senators, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, have suggested filibustering her nomination. Tillis has put himself in the Cruz camp.

Graham, R-S.C., issued a statement this morning explaining his support for Lynch:

“It's time to turn the page on Eric Holder's tenure as Attorney General,” said Graham. “We need a fresh start in the position, and this is an opportunity for our nation to move forward.

“Ms. Lynch is well-qualified and comes recommended by those who have dealt with her on both sides of the aisle. During her service as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, she dealt with high profile terrorism cases and I believe she understands the national security threats we face.”

Tillis and others are judging Lynch not on her record and credentials but using the litmus test of immigration. Given that the Obama administration is appealing a judge’s ruling that struck down his executive action, it is not surprising that his pick for AG would support her boss’s stance.

Lynch has a long and admirable record of public service and is qualified to serve as attorney general. Senators should generally be deferential to a president of either party and allow him to install his own nominees barring some clearly disqualifying characteristic. Insisting that a Democratic nominee share Republicans’ views on major issues is an unrealistically high bar. Taylor Batten