Senate to Begin Hearings on Obama Attorney General Nominee

Senate to Begin Hearings on Obama Attorney General Nominee
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, is facing Senate questioners as she seeks to become the first black woman to hold the nation's top law enforcement job.

In the first Republican-led confirmation session of the Obama administration, Lynch was to appear Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee as it opens two days of hearings on her nomination.

Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, would replace Eric Holder, who announced his resignation last fall after leading the Justice Department for six years.

She already has earned praise from several GOP senators for her impressive credentials and accomplishments, and is widely expected to win confirmation. But first she will face tough questions from Republicans who now control the Senate. The hearing gives them an opportunity to press their opposition to Obama administration policies while showcasing their own governing roles as the 2016 presidential election cycle gets underway.

Holder was a lightning rod for conservative criticism and clashed continuously with Republicans, becoming the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress. Republicans want to hear Lynch pledge that she'll do things differently.

"She certainly has the credentials. We don't want a repeat of what we had," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a senior committee member. "I look upon her as a pretty good appointment, but I have to listen along with everybody else."

The Judiciary Committee includes some of the Senate's most outspoken Republicans, among them Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a potential presidential candidate who promised to quiz Lynch on Obama's executive actions on immigration that granted reprieves from deportation to millions.

"We need an attorney general who will stop being a partisan attack dog and instead get back to the traditions of upholding the Constitution and the law in a fair and impartial manner," Cruz said.

Lynch's hearing comes amid a nationwide spotlight on police tactics in the wake of high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers, as well as the slaying last month of two officers in New York City. It's an issue Lynch, 55, is deeply familiar with.

Lynch helped prosecute the New York City police officers who severely beat and sexually assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997. Her office in New York is leading a civil rights investigation into the police chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island last summer.

Lynch has been the top prosecutor since 2010 for a district that includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, a role she also held from 1999 to 2001.

On a conference call Tuesday, law enforcement officials praised Lynch's nomination. New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton described her as a "fair-minded individual" who would be able to navigate sensitive matters of race relations and policing and see both sides. 

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