Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
The Nomination of Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Today, the Senate takes up the nomination of the 83rd Attorney General.
We all know the former Democrat leadership could have processed this nomination during last year’s lame duck. But in the limited time we had, they chose to concentrate on confirming a number of judges and getting a losing vote on NSA reform. Ms. Lynch wasn’t a priority for the Democrats then.
But now, I’m pleased that the Senate was finally able to come to an agreement on the sex trafficking legislation so we can turn to the Lynch nomination.
I voted against Ms. Lynch’s nomination in committee and will oppose her nomination again when it’s time to vote. And I’ll spend a few minutes explaining why to my colleagues.
This nomination comes at a pivotal time for the Department of Justice and our country.
The next Attorney General will face some very difficult challenges – from combating cybercrime, to protecting our children from exploitation, to helping fight the war on terror.
But beyond that, the new Attorney General has a mess to clean up. The Justice Department has been plagued the last few years by decision-making driven by politics. Some of these I’ve mentioned before, but let me give you a few examples:
The Department’s own Inspector General listed as one of its top management challenges: “Restoring Confidence in the Integrity, Fairness, and Accountability of the Department.”
He cited several examples, including the Department falsely denying basic facts in the Fast and Furious controversy. The Inspector General concluded this “resulted in an erosion of trust in the Department.”
In that fiasco, our government knowingly allowed firearms to fall into the hands of international gun traffickers.
And it led to the death of a Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry.
And then, how did the department respond to this?
They denied, spun and hid the facts from Congress and the American people.
They bullied and intimidated whistleblowers, members of the press, and anyone who had the audacity to investigate and uncover the truth.
But Fast & Furious isn’t the department’s only major failing during the Holder tenure. It has also failed to hold another government agency accountable: the Internal Revenue Service.
We watched with dismay as that powerful agency was weaponized and turned against individual citizens who spoke out in defense of Faith, Freedom, and our Constitution.
What was the department’s reaction to the targeting of citizens based on their political beliefs?
They appointed a campaign donor to lead an investigation that hasn’t gone anywhere, and called it a day.
Meanwhile, the department’s top litigator, the Nation’s Solicitor General, is arguing in case after case for breathtaking expansions of federal power.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Had the department prevailed in just some of the arguments it pressed before the Supreme Court in the last several years:
-There would be essentially no limit on what the federal government could order states to do as a condition of receiving federal money;
-The Environmental Protection Agency could fine a homeowner $75,000 a day for not complying with an order, and then turn around and deny that homeowner any right to challenge the order or those fines in court when the order is issued;
-The federal government could review decisions by religious organizations regarding who can serve as a minister;
-The federal government could ban books that expressly advocate for the election or defeat of political candidates;
-And the Fourth Amendment wouldn’t have anything to say about the police attaching a GPS device to a citizen’s car without a warrant and constantly tracking their every movement for months or years.
These positions aren’t mainstream.
At the end of the day, the common thread that binds all of these challenges together is a Department of Justice that is deeply politicized.
But that’s what happens when the Attorney General of the United States views himself, in his own words, as the President’s “wingman.”
Because of all the politicized decisions we’ve witnessed over the last few years, I’ve said from the very beginning of this process that what we need more than anything else out of our next Attorney General is independence.
Ever since she was nominated, it was my sincere hope that Ms. Lynch would demonstrate that independence. It was my hope that she would make clear that while she serves at the pleasure of the President, she is accountable to the American people.
Because the job of Attorney General is defined by a duty to defend the Constitution, and uphold the rule of law.
The job is not to simply defend the President and his policies.
Now, I voted FOR Attorney General Holder, despite some reservations and misgivings.
But I’ve come to regret that vote because of the political way he has led the department.
I realize that the quickest way to end his tenure as Attorney General is to confirm Ms. Lynch.
But as I’ve said, the question for me from the start has been whether Ms. Lynch will make a clean break from his policies and take the department in a new direction.
Some of my Democratic colleagues have said that no one has raised any objections to Ms. Lynch’s nomination. This, of course, isn’t accurate.
No one disputes that she has an impressive legal background.
It was her testimony before the committee that caused concern for many Senators, including me. After thoroughly reviewing that testimony, I concluded that she won’t lead the department in a different direction.
And that’s unfortunate. Because after 6 years of Attorney General Holder’s leadership, the department desperately needs a change in direction.
Let me just remind my Democrat colleagues, that it wasn’t too long ago that a majority of Democrats voted against Judge Mukasey for Attorney General – NOT based on his record – but instead based on his testimony before the committee.
In fact, then-Senator Obama had this to say about Judge Mukasey, “While his legal credentials are strong, his views on two critical and related matters are, in my view, disqualifying.”
I asked Ms. Lynch about her views on Fast & Furious, on the IRS scandal, on the other ways the Department has been politicized.
She didn’t demonstrate she’d do things differently. Instead she gave non-answers. She was eloquent and polished, but non-responsive.
The bottom line is that Ms. Lynch doesn’t seem willing to commit to a new, independent way of running the department.
That surprised me. Based on everything we were told, I expected Ms. Lynch to demonstrate a bit more independence from the President.
Now, I’m confident that if she had done so, she would’ve garnered more support.
As I said when the committee voted on her nomination, to illustrate this point, we need to look no further than the confirmation of Secretary Carter to the Department of Defense earlier this year.
When he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary Carter demonstrated the type of independent streak that many of us were hoping we’d see from Ms. Lynch.
Most of the media reporting on the two nominations seemed to agree.
Headlines regarding the Carter nomination from The New York Times and The Washington Post commend his shift from the President’s policies with headlines like “Defense nominee Carter casts himself as an independent voice.” (The Washington Post)
And “In Ashton Carter, Nominee for Defense Secretary, a Change in Direction” [The New York Times]
But on the Lynch nomination, those same newspapers highlighted that she defended the President’s policies on immigration and surveillance, with headlines like “Lynch Defends Obama’s Immigration Action.” (The New York Times) and “Loretta Lynch Defends Obama’s Immigration Actions” [Huffington Post]
Secretary Carter was confirmed with 93 votes. Only 5 senators voted against his nomination.
That lopsided vote was a reflection of his testimony before the Senate, which demonstrated a willingness to be an independent voice within the administration.
Unfortunately, Ms. Lynch didn’t demonstrate the same type of independence.
I sincerely hope Ms. Lynch proves me wrong and is willing to stand up to the President and say “No” when the duty of the office demands it.
But based on my review of her record, I cannot support the nomination.
I yield the Floor.