The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-8 Thursday to approve Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general, following tense confirmation hearings and scrutiny from conservatives who saw the nomination process as an opportunity for airing out their disagreements with President Barack Obama. Three Republicans -- Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- voted in Lynch’s favor along with all of the Democrats on the committee, Politico reported.
If confirmed by the full Senate, Lynch would become the first African-American female attorney general, succeeding Eric Holder, who was the first black person to ever hold the position. The committee’s vote was lauded by civil rights organizations that have noted the significance of Lynch’s ascendance. “We commend the members of the Judiciary Committee who voted today to advance the long overdue nomination... especially those Republican members who brushed aside partisan rhetoric to support this historic and superbly qualified nominee,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement released after Thursday’s vote.
Earlier this week, prominent Texas Sen. Ted Cruz urged fellow Republicans to oppose Lynch's appointment because she agrees with the legal basis for Obama’s executive actions that defer deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants, among other concerns. Texas’ other senator, John Cornyn, who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, said earlier this month that he would not vote to confirm Lynch. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana have also said they would oppose Lynch.
A 55-year-old top prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the eastern district of New York, Lynch has nearly 15 years of experience as a public servant. Before her 2010 appointment as a U.S. attorney in New York, she served in the same role from 1999 to 2001, as an appointee of President Bill Clinton. During the break in between her terms as a federal prosecutor, Lynch worked in the private sector as a lawyer handling commercial litigation cases and defending white-collar criminals in New York. Henderson said Lynch’s resume and record should outweigh Republican lawmakers’ desire to score political points against Obama. “We hope the reasoned voices of Senators Orrin Hatch, Jeff Flake, and Lindsey Graham will resonate with their Republican colleagues as the nomination moves to the Senate floor,” he said.