Loretta Lynch One Step Closer To Attorney General The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Loretta Lynch's nomination to be the next U.S. Attorney General on Thursday. Next stop: a full Senate vote on confirmation.
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Loretta Lynch One Step Closer To Attorney General

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Loretta Lynch One Step Closer To Attorney General

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Loretta Lynch One Step Closer To Attorney General

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

President Obama's nominee to serve as the next attorney general is a step closer to having that title. Today the nomination of Loretta Lynch advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 12 to 8 vote. NPR's Carrie Johnson has more.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: After waiting 110 days and answering nearly 900 written questions, Loretta Lynch finally got past the Senate Judiciary Committee, but not before Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy blasted his Republican counterparts for the unprecedented delay.

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SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY: I've been here 40 years and no attorney general - no attorney general has ever had to wait this long for a vote.

JOHNSON: It's not that Lynch herself is that controversial - she's won jury verdicts against al-Qaida terrorists and brutal New York City policemen. And she's also won unanimous confirmation to serve as the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. But the White House nominated Lynch to be attorney general after Republicans took over the Senate. And she's taken plenty of fire for President Obama's unilateral action on immigration. That gave nearly 4 million people temporary reprieve from deportation. Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions.

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SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS: Congress makes the laws, not the president, as every schoolchild knows. Congress has repeatedly rejected legislation to provide this kind of amnesty, work permits, financial benefits to people who've entered our country illegally.

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SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER: The hard right, upset over the president's immigration policies, is grasping at straws to have a fight, any fight, over immigration.

JOHNSON: That's New York Democrat Charles Schumer. Schumer said that fight belongs in the courts, not the judiciary committee.

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SCHUMER: Loretta Lynch - a supremely qualified nominee for a vital national security and law enforcement post - should never, never have been pulled into the fray.

JOHNSON: But Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said Lynch's views on executive power, including on immigration, represent the most important considerations for any Justice Department leader.

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SENATOR TED CRUZ: Throughout the course of the hearing, Ms. Lynch consistently refused to acknowledge any limitation whatsoever on the authority of the president of the United States.

JOHNSON: Several Republicans on the judiciary committee said they doubted that Lynch would stand up to the White House. But three Republican lawmakers ultimately voted to advance her nomination, including Utah's Orrin Hatch. As for her independence, Hatch said...

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SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: There's good reason to believe that Miss Lynch will be more independent than the current attorney general and make strides towards recommitting the department to the rule of law.

JOHNSON: The current attorney general is Eric Holder. His verbal clashes with Republicans on Capitol Hill helped make him the first AG to be held in contempt by the House of Representatives. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he was happy to wave goodbye to Holder, now the third longest-serving attorney general in history.

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SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Eric Holder is ready to go and I wish him well (laughter). He is about to go make a lot of money. Republicans are into that, so...

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GRAHAM: He will be one of the - he'll be the 1 percenter here soon.

JOHNSON: Confirming Loretta Lynch, who attended civil rights rallies on her father's shoulders as a toddler, is no laughing matter, says Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin.

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SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: This is the first African-American woman in the history of the United States who would serve as our attorney general. This is a solemn, important and historic moment for America.

JOHNSON: Lynch is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate early next month. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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