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Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch on Wednesday defended the legality of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, but sought to win approval from Congressional Republicans by pledging to rebuild the rocky relationship between the Justice Department and the GOP.
“I look forward to fostering a new and improved relationship with this committee, the United States Senate, and the entire United States Congress – a relationship based on mutual respect and Constitutional balance,” Lynch told the Senate Judiciary Committee during her confirmation hearing. “Ultimately, I know we all share the same goal and commitment: to protect and serve the American people.”
Lynch’s nomination comes as the Republican-led Congress battles the president’s immigration orders, which conservatives say is illegal. But just as important to Senate Republicans is that Lynch’s potential confirmation marks a new start to the relationship between the Justice Department and Congress after years of partisan battles between the GOP and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.
“Going forward, every attorney general creates their own path,” Lynch told Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “You’ve asked how I will be different than Eric Holder. I will be Loretta Lynch.”
Lynch, currently the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, would become the nation's first black female attorney general if confirmed. Some Republicans signaled they would join Democrats in supporting Lynch, despite her defense of Obama’s immigration order that is strongly opposed by conservatives.
She said throughout her testimony that she found the legal rationale defending the president’s action as “reasonable,” but said undocumented workers do not legally have a right to citizenship.
Moreover though, Republicans were anxious to move on from the Holder years by stressing the need for an independent leader of the Justice Department.
"You're not Eric Holder, are you?" Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas asked. "No one is suggesting that you are, but of course, Attorney General Holder's record is heavy on our minds."