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Capito to oppose U.S. attorney general nominee

Photo from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register  Shelley Capito
Photo from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
Shelley Capito

WHEELING, W.Va. — Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said she will oppose confirmation of Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed retiring Attorney General Eric Holder.

Capito, R-W.Va., said she met with Lynch for 30-45 minutes last week and discussed numerous topics ranging from heroin abuse to Obama’s use of executive orders. Although she has no doubts about Lynch’s qualifications for the job, Capito said the longtime federal prosecutor’s support for Obama’s order granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants was a deal-breaker.

“Her views on the president’s executive actions are troubling to me. … Her answers did not assure me that she would be that independent voice to stand up for the separation of powers,” Capito said.

If confirmed, Lynch – currently U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York – would become the first black woman in American history to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

But with budget talks likely to consume much of the Senate’s time in the near future, it appears the Senate won’t vote on her confirmation until at least mid-April. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he won’t bring the nomination up for a vote until Democrats stop their filibuster of a bill toughening federal law against human trafficking over a provision they say restricts abortion rights – leaving both parties blaming each other for the impasse.

Meanwhile, West Virginia’s senior senator, Democrat Joe Manchin, has urged his colleagues to “put politics aside” and confirm Lynch.

“Every day that we postpone her confirmation is a disservice to the American people,” he said.

Obama, too, has criticized the GOP’s delay tactics, but Capito said she supports McConnell’s course.

“The trafficking bill is important,” Capito said. “It’s an issue in West Virginia and it’s an issue across the country.”

The bill, known as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, would make soliciting sex from a human trafficking victim the legal equivalent of trafficking itself, and make it more difficult to use lack of knowledge that a prostitute is underage or being coerced as a defense. It also sets up a fund for trafficking victims using fines collected under the law, and Democrats balked at a provision that bans spending any of that money on abortions except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.

Capito dismissed claims by some Democrats who originally supported the bill that Republicans snuck the language into the measure, saying the provision was there all along.

“The trafficking bill was supported in committee by Democrats,” Capito said. “There was no indication that there was anything undesirable in the bill.”

Obama nominated Lynch on Nov. 8, four days after Republicans seized control of the Senate in the 2014 election. The outgoing Democrat majority did not attempt to rush Lynch’s nomination during the lame-duck session, however, leaving her fate in the hands of the new GOP majority.

Capito said Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had his chance to get Lynch confirmed.

“We were ready to address this until members of his party basically stalled the process,” she said.

It appears a confirmation vote on Lynch would be extremely close. Four Republicans have indicated they would vote in her favor, which would force a tie vote if all 46 Democrats support Obama’s choice.

If that happens, it would be up to Vice President Joe Biden to break the deadlock.

Holder, who announced his plan to step down in September, will stay on until his successor is confirmed.

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