Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday he is not committed to supporting President Trump's attorney general nominee, raising concerns that could complicate the White House's path forward.
Democratic opposition to Trump's choice of William Barr, the former attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush, is already growing based on concerns about his possible oversight over the special counsel investigation.
But Paul's potential opposition centers on different issues, specifically how Barr's vision for the Justice Department could clash with his libertarian views.
During Sunday's broadcast of "Meet the Press" on NBC, Paul noted Barr's support for the Patriot Act, the post-9/11 law that expanded surveillance and detention powers of the executive branch, as well as civil asset forfeiture, where the government seizes property of accused criminals.
"I haven't made a decision about him, but I cant tell you — the first things I've learned about him being for more surveillance of Americans is very, very troubling," Paul said.
Trump announced he would be nominating Barr on Friday, ending more than a month of uncertainty about the Justice Department's top post that began when the president fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in November, the day after Election Day.
Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney who has been critical of the special counsel's investigation into allegations Russia colluded with members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, has been serving as acting attorney general since Sessions's departure.
While the Senate confirmed him to lead the Justice Department in 1991 without much fanfare, Barr's upcoming confirmation battle is expected to be substantially tougher.
Democrats, including those on the Senate Judiciary Committee that will be handling his confirmation, have already raised concerns about Barr's ability to be impartial about the president's legal woes. And there's been some bipartisan concern about Barr's support for expanding presidential powers.
Maine Independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, said that he's in a "wait and see" mode on Barr, but that Barr's potential relationship with the special counsel investigation will be a key for Democrats weighing whether to support him.
"His hearings will be very important and I would be surprised if the Senate confirms and individual who doesn't commit to protecting the integrity of special counsel [Robert] Mueller. I think that's going to be a kind of litmus test for any nominee for attorney general," King said.
With Congress adjourning in just a few weeks, and with Trump having not yet officially nominated Barr, his confirmation will likely be handled by the next Congress.
The GOP will have a bit more wiggle room for internal opposition next year after it secured a 53 seat majority in the 2018 elections.
If every Democratic senator opposes Barr, Republicans could stand to lose four lawmakers' votes because Vice President Pence casts a vote in the case of a tie.