At first blush, it looks like Dick Durbin’s demagoguery did more damage than first thought, but that’s not the real issue. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham [see second update], both strong advocates for comprehensive immigration reform and usually among those looking for compromise and comity in the Senate on presidential nominations, came out foursquare against the confirmation of Loretta Lynch. In fact, McCain went so far as to declare on the Hugh Hewitt Show that “no Republican should vote for her confirmation,” given her support of Barack Obama’s executive amnesty:
JM: Hugh, I know your time is short. Could I just mention one other issue with you very quickly that’s coming up?
JM: That’s Loretta Lynch. Loretta Lynch has said that the President’s unconstitutional executive orders are “reasonable.” Then if that is the case, no Republican should vote for her confirmation, because she is going to implement what the President himself said 22 times would be unconstitutional actions. And by the way, I also believe that Mitch McConnell is right that we should not even bring it up until we get this human trafficking bill disposed of. Children are being mistreated in the worst possible ways while we dither over a provision in the bill which was long ago settled.
We’re still waiting for the transcript from Graham’s interview with Hugh, who’s suddenly become the go-to guy for big news in the GOP. One could take a pretty cynical view of Graham’s sudden hard-line position on Lynch, as he’s trying to build credibility for a presidential run, and needs to show the base he can be tough. However, Graham has to know that he’s not exactly among the frontrunners anyway, and he just won re-election, so his Senate seat is safe. McCain’s running again in 2016, but he’s won that seat in Arizona handily in the past even when his immigration heterodoxy has annoyed voters in his state. He won in 2010 even after his 2005-6 moderation on presidential appointees in the Bush administration, so a vote for Lynch wouldn’t have curled eyebrows there at all.
So what happened? McCain went out of his way in the interview to bring the subject up. He clearly wanted to be heard on the topic. It may be that the imbroglio with Durbin and the continuing suggestions from Democrats that race had something to do with it has made him angry enough to fight back through Lynch. I think, though, that both Graham and McCain may honestly be angrier about Obama’s executive actions. In other words, this really may be on the level.
And that changes the stakes considerably. Democrats need four Republicans to get Lynch through a confirmation vote. With McCain and Graham bowing out … which five can they find? Susan Collins and Bob Corker, maybe, and perhaps Charles Grassley, since Judiciary voted her out of committee with a positive recommendation. Toss in Richard Shelby, and you’re perhaps at a tie that Joe Biden can break. But it seems like a lot more of a stretch than it was earlier this week, and Dick Durbin may be the reason why.
Update: I’d forgotten that Orrin Hatch said he’d vote for confirmation. I wonder if this will change his mind.
Update: The Graham transcript has been posted on Hugh’s site, but contrary to what we first were told, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of Lynch in that conversation. I’ve changed the headline until we get a clarification on this.