Either this is the result of being too cute in timing the appointment, or a measure of Loretta Lynch’s first impression on the GOP caucus. Both Democratic and Republican aides tell The Hill that the Senate will not have the time to confirm Eric Holder’s replacement as Attorney General in the lame-duck session that will be the last gasp of Harry Reid’s eight-year control of the upper chamber:
A packed schedule after the election is almost certain to push the vetting process for Loretta Lynch into January, when Republicans are set to take power in the upper chamber.
“It seems likely [the Lynch vote] would be in the next Congress. It’s difficult to process an AG that quickly,” said a Democratic aide.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not yet made a decision on whether to move Lynch’s nomination in the lame-duck session, according to spokesman Adam Jentleson.
But aides say the time crunch and growing GOP opposition to Lynch make it exceedingly unlikely that the replacement for Eric Holder will be confirmed in December.
That means the task of approving a new attorney general — a position that is a lightning rod for controversy — will fall to the new Republican majority of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
“Ms. Lynch will receive fair consideration by the Senate. And her nomination should be considered in the new Congress through regular order,” McConnell said in a statement.
Alexander Bolton writes that Patrick Leahy wants to squeeze in NSA reform while he’s still chair of the Judiciary Committee, which would hold the confirmation hearing before any floor vote could take place. The continuing resolution on the FY2015 budget runs out in December, which means that Reid has to put together either another CR or preferably a full budget in order to keep the GOP from driving that process in January. Republican unity against moving forward with Lynch before the end of this session has Reid leaning toward putting Lynch on the back burner.
And … all of these sound like excuses. Leahy may want his personal stamp on NSA reform, but there are plenty of like-minded Republicans on that score (such as Rand Paul), so it won’t die in the 114th Congress. The budget is a legitimate concern for Democrats, but they’d like an opportunity to cast Republicans as the extremist foil to a reasonable Barack Obama. Another CR would allow them an early start on that game — although Reid and Nancy Pelosi may be worried that Obama will start caving to the GOP on budgets in order to improve his personal ratings, too. As far as Republican unity, Reid didn’t set off the nuclear option a year ago to let 45 Senators tell him a major Obama appointment wouldn’t get a confirmation vote, especially to a Cabinet position. He may need to curry GOP favor to keep from getting the same treatment he dished out over the last eight years, but Reid isn’t going to give up what little control remains in his hands and sacrifice Lynch to get it.
Nor does it appear that he needs to do so. The sudden lack of urgency appears to have something to do with Republican assurances of professional handling for Lynch. The newly-empowered GOP must feel as though they dodged a bullet with Lynch’s appointment, rather than someone more radical — like Thomas Perez, or Dawn Johnsten. Kathryn Ruemmler would have touched off a partisan food fight with her connections to the IRS and Secret Service scandals, both of which the White House would like to avoid as confirmation-hearing topics anyway. Donald Verrilli would have been the safest bet outside of a sitting Senator, but Lynch checks off Obama’s constituencies without too much risk, and not enough controversy (at least for now) for Republicans to challenge a president’s prerogative to name his own Cabinet leaders.