- GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, a longtime Senate Judiciary Committee member, says Obama's attorney general pick is a "top-flight person"
- U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch would replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder
The Senate Republican's most senior member is ready to support President Barack Obama's attorney general nominee, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
Orrin Hatch, a high-ranking member of the upper chamber's judiciary committee, spoke to reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill about Lynch's credentials and Republican's desire to see Eric Holder, the current attorney general, leave office.
"She appears to be a very top-flight person," he said. "And if conservatives do want to get rid of the attorney general, this is a good option because she would replace him and do a very a good job."
Holder is one of the more controversial members of the Obama cabinet. Seen as overly partisan by Republicans, the House voted to hold him in contempt of Congress in 2012 for refusing to turn over documents linked to Operation Fast and Furious. The announcement of his resignation in September was welcome by those opponents.
Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was nominated by Obama last month to replace Holder, who has served as head of the Justice Department since the beginning of the Obama administration. She's easily passed through the Senate twice for her nominations as a federal prosecutor.
"I can think of no better public servant to be our next attorney general," the President said when he nominated Lynch. "It's my hope that the Senate will confirm her for a third time without delay."
At 55 years old, she will be the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general if confirmed. Hatch's support is critical to get through the judiciary committee and the entire Senate, both of which will be controlled by Republicans when Congress resumes next year.
He did note that he hasn't met with the nominee yet.
"I guess I'm not important enough," Hatch, who has chaired the committee multiple times over the past 20 years, joked.
Unconcerned she hasn't come by yet, he expects to meet with her before her nomination hearings as traditionally done with most committee members.
"I'm somebody who wants to support the President on these matters," Hatch said. "I think probably she feels like she's had a lot of people she needs to meet with right off the bat. And that's fine with me."
The senior Republican from Utah has a history of supporting Presidents' judicial nominees of both parties. He voted for both Democratic Presidents Clinton and Obama's attorneys general, Janet Reno and Eric Holder. His support for Holder, though, has waned.
"I happen to think the attorney general has not done a great job, but I like him personally a lot," Hatch said.
Presented with the new option, he noted in his amicable, and perhaps slightly eager, tone that Lynch's nomination "looks pretty good to me."