For many North Carolinians, it’s quickly becoming clear what a mistake it was to send Thom Tillis to the U.S. Senate. It is going to be a long six years.
Perhaps the former state House speaker, a Mecklenburg County Republican, could be forgiven his ridiculous comment about ending hand-washing requirements for restaurant workers as a poorly chosen example of his free market advocacy. But there’s nothing misspoken about his Judiciary Committee vote Thursday against Greensboro native Loretta Lynch for U.S. attorney general. The committee nonetheless approved Lynch 12-8 and sent her nomination to the full Senate, where she is expected to be confirmed.
Regrettably, but not surprisingly, North Carolina’s senior senator, Republican Richard Burr also said Thursday that he would not support Lynch’s confirmation.
Lynch’s disqualifying aspect, according to Tillis and Burr, is that she would ask the courts to decide whether North Carolina’s new voter ID law infringes on minority voting rights. Tillis also objects that Lynch, as a member of the Obama administration, would support the president’s effort to grant undocumented immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation and the legal right to work.
“I have immense respect for Loretta Lynch both personally and professionally,” Tillis said in a written statement, but added, “I cannot vote to confirm a nominee who will not make a firm and explicit commitment to reverse the partisan politicization that presently exists at the Department of Justice.”
Qualifications, not politics
Tillis is making a partisan objection to Attorney General Eric Holder’s supposed “politicizing” the Department of Justice. If North Carolina’s senators oppose a nominee, it should be because she is not qualified to serve. It shouldn’t be because she does not share their conservative views of the law. She is not nominated as a judge. She is nominated by the president to approach the role of attorney general in a way that reflects his philosophy of the law. The president is entitled to nominate people who share his views.
Beyond being wrongheaded about the confirmation process, Tillis and Burr are simply classless in standing against Lynch. An African-American who grew up in Durham as the daughter of a minister and a librarian, Lynch is a North Carolina success story. She distinguished herself by earning undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard, in private practice and as United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. If confirmed, she would be the first black woman to hold the office of Attorney General of the United States.
Senators are impressed with Lynch’s credentials, her demeanor and her judgment. Other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, including Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake, voted for her. Yet the junior senator from North Carolina voted against her, putting himself in league with tea party Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Burr promptly said, “Me, too.”
Burr and Tillis think Lynch is unworthy of approval because she will not drop the Justice Department’s suit against a new North Carolina election law. The law, quickly approved once the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act, is one of the most restrictive such laws in the nation. It requires a photo ID to vote, tightens registration rules and cuts back early voting.
If Tillis and Burr think the law is legal, they have nothing to fear from a court challenge. Either they’re worried that the law is vulnerable or they simply oppose anyone with the audacity to disagree with them.
Fortunately, Lynch appears likely to be confirmed despite the crass opposition from both senators of her native state.