SENATORS VOTED Thursday to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next attorney general by an embarrassingly thin margin of 56 to 43. It was embarrassing not to Ms. Lynch, who clearly deserved confirmation, but to the Republicans who voted against a nominee who should have breezed through.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and nine other Republicans pushed Ms. Lynch over the top. But the list of GOP no votes was much longer. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the chamber’s point man on presidential nominees in the legal space, voted against confirmation. So did Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who previously led the Senate away from gross partisanship on nominations. These are among the men who should be ensuring order and fairness in the Senate, as Mr. McConnell promised in November. Instead, they put anger at President Obama above the proper functioning of the government.
“We don’t need to be apologetic about it,” insisted Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the former top Republican on the Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. attorney. The president has claimed powers above and beyond those King George III exercised, Mr. Sessions hyperbolized. So, apparently, any Obama nominee who fails to condemn Mr. Obama’s actions should be voted down.
One would imagine that the Senate’s declared presidential candidates would resist that sort of thinking. Yet Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) both voted against Ms. Lynch. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) missed the final vote, but he made clear where he stood: “No senator can vote for this confirmation consistent with his or her oath,” Mr. Cruz thundered on the Senate floor, bringing his characteristic blend of overstatement and irresponsibility to the debate. A President Cruz might feel differently if Democrats were holding up one of his nominees over policy disagreements with the White House.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush didn’t get a vote, but he struck the right note when he joined other prominent Republicans outside the Senate in calling for Ms. Lynch’s confirmation. “I think presidents have the right to pick their team,” he said in New Hampshire this month. “If someone is supportive of the president’s policies, whether you agree with them or not, there should be some deference to the executive.” Precisely: A vote for Ms. Lynch was not an endorsement of the president’s policies. Instead it reflected a senator’s conclusion that she is qualified to do the job.
We, too, had misgivings about Mr. Obama’s executive action on immigration. But Mr. Obama’s executive action was not based on a fraudulent legal analysis, nor was it so patently outrageous as to warrant shutting down the confirmation process and leaving the Justice Department in limbo.
Mr. Grassley noted before the vote on Ms. Lynch that most Senate Democrats opposed Michael Mukasey’s nomination to be George W. Bush’s attorney general in 2007. He and his fellow Republicans, then, should have known better than to descend to that level.