The Senate voted 56-43 Thursday to approve the nomination of Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general, ending a more than five-month-long political impasse that had stalled her bid to become the first black woman to lead the Justice Department.
Three Republicans senators running for president next year — Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz — all opposed Lynch, though Cruz wasn’t on the floor to actually vote against her. A spokesman said he had to catch a flight back to Texas.
“I opposed Loretta Lynch’s nomination because of her failure to identify any limit on the president’s ability to ignore the laws passed by Congress as well as her obvious enthusiasm for civil asset forfeiture, which can deprive innocent people of their property rights without due process,” Rubio said Thursday in a prepared statement.
Paul also has been outspoken in his criticism of Lynch for her stance on civil forfeiture.
Civil forfeiture is a legal process that enables law enforcement to seize assets from persons suspected of a crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging them with wrongdoing.
“Civil-forfeiture authority, as opposed to criminal forfeiture, allows government to seize property without convicting its owner of anything,” Rubio wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Times last fall.
He went on to write that “It is a powerful tool that invites abuse, especially because the seizing agencies can keep the proceeds for themselves. This creates a perverse incentive. It also, in essence, creates a ‘slush fund’ that an agency can use to fund its activities free of congressional appropriation. While broad proposals to reform these laws have been made and will be debated, an immediate first step should be to prevent the Justice Department or other law enforcement agencies from keeping these proceeds for themselves. If there is a valid law enforcement purpose to forfeiture, the judgment of government agencies should not be warped by self-interest.”
In his statement Thursday, Rubio also criticized Lynch for failing to show independence from President Obama, a stance frequently mentioned by the majority of GOP senators who said they would oppose her nomination.
“Pushed on the president’s unprecedented claim that through prosecutorial discretion he can unilaterally change substantive immigration law, she declared this position ‘reasonable.’ Asked whether a conservative president could unilaterally lower taxes by simply not collecting them above a certain rate, she demurred. In fact, she seemed to indicate that she couldn’t imagine a limit to such claims to power.”
“I regret that Ms. Lynch failed to demonstrate that, if confirmed, she would be willing to tell the president that there are some things that he simply does not have the constitutional power to do,” Rubio wrote. “Because she failed to demonstrate that she would be willing to draw a line where appropriate, I voted against her confirmation.”