When attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch takes the hot seat Wednesday morning, she's planning to tell senators that she's aiming for better relations with the legislative branch.
"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 is expected to say, according to prepared remarks. "Ultimately, I know we all share the same goal and commitment: to protect and serve the American people."
That would be a marked departure from the toxicity with which, deservedly or not, Republicans on Capitol Hill have viewed outgoing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. It's also a proposal for mutual respect that could be important for getting Justice Department business – including lower-level nominees – through the Senate under GOP control, and a Judiciary Committee chaired by Charles E. Grassley of Iowa.
Grassley has been critical of the way the Justice Department, as well as others in the executive branch, have handled responses to his oversight queries in the past.
CQ Roll Call obtained excerpts of Lynch's prepared testimony ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing. They indicate that Lynch will focus on both personal traits and policy priorities, including pointing to an emphasis on relations between police departments and the communities they serve.
"Few things have pained me more than the recent reports of tension and division between law enforcement and the communities we serve. If confirmed as Attorney General, one of my key priorities would be to work to strengthen the vital relationships between our courageous law enforcement personnel and all the communities we serve. In my career, I have seen this relationship flourish – I have seen law enforcement forge unbreakeable (sic) bonds with community residents and have seen violence-ravaged communities come together to honor officers who risked all to protect them. As Attorney General, I will draw all voices into this important discussion," Lynch is expected to tell the panel.
Lynch will say that in her current position as the U.S. attorney in New York's Eastern District, she's been running an office that's prosecuted cybercrimes, and she would intend to continue that effort in the national post.
"If confirmed, I intend to expand and enhance our capabilities in order to effectively prevent ever-evolving attacks in cyberspace, expose wrongdoers, and bring perpetrators to justice," she will say, according to an excerpt. "If I am confirmed, I will continue to use the combined skills and experience of our law enforcement partners, the Department’s Criminal and National Security Divisions, and the United States Attorney community to defeat and to hold accountable those who would imperil the safety and security of our citizens through cybercrime."
The questioning could be laborious, with Grassley having said he is prepared to stay in session as long as necessary to allow senators to get responses. That plan may run into conflict with a series of 18 roll call votes scheduled to take place on the floor starting in the afternoon. Still, Lynch should be prepared for a long day of questions from Republican senators with myriad objections to Obama administration policies. She is expected to say she'll be guided first and foremost by the Constitution.
"Senators, if confirmed as Attorney General I pledge to you and to the American people that the Constitution, the bedrock of our system of justice, will be my lodestar as I exercise the power and responsibility of that position," she's planning to tell the lawmakers.
From Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and others, Lynch will be pressed on support for last year's executive actions on immigration.
"I met with Ms. Lynch earlier this month and didn't get any straight answers from her. She needs to be completely forthright with the Committee about her support for some of President Obama’s most dangerous policies – including executive amnesty," Vitter said in a statement.
Vitter is one of more than 50 senators Lynch has met with as part of the confirmation process, a list that includes each one of her Judiciary interrogators on Wednesday. Those meetings are sure to continue as her nomination moves forward.
The Judiciary Committee's top Democrat on Tuesday encouraged his colleagues to focus on Lynch's record, rather than any more general opposition to the Obama administration – though of course as chief law enforcement officer those two can be intertwined.
"The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is also an opportunity for the public to hear directly from Loretta Lynch. Ms. Lynch is a dedicated public servant with a strong commitment to justice and to keeping our communities safe. Ms. Lynch deserves to be judged on her own record," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont. "I am confident that if we stay focused on Ms. Lynch’s impeccable qualifications and her reputation for fairness, she will be quickly confirmed by the Senate."
But, aside from the policy particulars, Lynch intends to talk a bit about her life story and her parents, as is customary of nomination hearings for positions throughout the federal government. Lynch's father is a Baptist minister, while her mother is retired from life as a schoolteacher and librarian.
"As I come before you today in this historic chamber, I still stand on my father’s shoulders, as well as on the shoulders of all those who have gone before me and who dreamed of making the promise of America a reality for all and worked to achieve that goal," Lynch will say, according to one excerpt. "I believe in the promise of America because I have lived the promise of America."
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