A key Senate panel has advanced the nomination of Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama's pick to be the next attorney general.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-8 to move her nomination to a full vote in the Senate, where she is expected to be confirmed. If confirmed, she would be the first African-American woman to hold the job.
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Three Republicans -- Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona -- joined with Democrats to vote in favor of Lynch's nomination.
Some conservatives see a vote for Lynch as a vote in favor of Obama's executive actions on immigration.
"This is the top law enforcement job in America, it is not a political position, and anyone who holds this position should have total fidelity to the laws and constitution of the United States," said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sesssions, who voted no. "They must be willing and able to tell the president no if he overreaches."
But Republicans who supported Lynch derided that notion as shortsighted.
"The case against her nomination, as far as I can tell, essentially ignores her professional career and focuses solely on about six hours that she spent before this committee on January 28th," Hatch said, referencing Lynch's earlier confirmation hearing. "I do not believe that is a proper way to evaluate any nominee's fitness for any position."
It's unclear when a final vote will occur on the Senate floor. A Senate GOP leadership aide says Lynch's nomination could be considered as soon as next week, but a final vote could slip into the second week of March.
- Frank Thorp and Carrie Dann