Confronting skeptical Republicans, attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch pledged a new start with Congress and independence from President Barack Obama Wednesday, even as she defended the president’s unilateral protections for millions of immigrants in the country illegally.
“If confirmed as attorney general, I would be myself. I would be Loretta Lynch,” the nominee told her Senate confirmation hearing as Republicans showered criticism on the current occupant of the job, Eric Holder. They said Holder was contemptuous of Congress and too politically close to Obama, and repeatedly demanded assurances that Lynch would do things differently.
“You’re not Eric Holder, are you?” Texas Republican John Cornyn, one of the current attorney general’s most persistent critics, asked at one point.
“No, I’m not, Sir,” Lynch responded with a smile.
It was a moment that summed up a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that was often more about Obama and Holder than about Lynch, who is now the top federal prosecutor for parts of New York City and Long Island. If confirmed, she would become the nation’s first black female attorney general.
On immigration, Lynch faced numerous questions from Republicans critical of the administration’s new policy granting work permits and temporary deportation relief to some 4 million people who are in the country illegally. The committee chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, called the effort “a dangerous abuse of executive authority.”
Lynch said she had no involvement in drafting the measures but called them “a reasonable way to marshal limited resources to deal with the problem” of illegal immigration. She said the Homeland Security Department was focusing on removals of “the most dangerous of the undocumented immigrants among us.”