The Slatest

Obama Sets Up First Post-Midterms Battle by Nominating Washington Outsider for Attorney General

President Obama has nominated federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch to become the next attorney general, saying that it’s “pretty hard to be more qualified” for the job. Qualifications aside though, the move will likely turn into the first major battle with the newly empowered Republicans in the Senate following the midterm vote. But it does seem as though Obama picked someone Republicans would have a difficult time blocking. Lynch, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, would become the first African-American woman to fill the key post. And by choosing Lynch, it seems clear Obama went with the least controversial of his final choices, passing over several candidates with whom he has closer ties, notes the New York Times. Plus, Lynch has already been easily confirmed twice, so opposition from Republicans could prove to be politically difficult.

“It’s unusual for Obama to pick someone he doesn’t know well for such a sensitive administration post, but the White House considered her distance an asset that could help in the confirmation process,” notes the Associated Press.

How that confirmation will come to pass will apparently be left up to the Senate leaders. The White House obviously wants Lynch to be confirmed as soon as possible but officials say the senators themselves will have to decide whether to push ahead with the confirmation in the lame-duck session or wait until after Republicans take over the majority, reports Politico. For now at least, it seems Democratic aides are likely to choose pushing ahead with the confirmation during the lame duck. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is likely to be the next Senate majority leader, is unlikely to be a fan of that decision after saying that there is no doubt Lynch “should be considered in the new Congress through regular order.” How the issue is handled could set the tone for the incoming majority.

Obama had initially planned to unveil his pick for attorney general later this month but revealed it Saturday after news of her selection leaked. And while some are predicting a difficult confirmation battle, at least judging by the initial coverage, it seems most have nothing but praise for Lynch, describing her as a consummate professional who has always chosen to work hard and fly under the radar to avoid the spotlight, even when she handled high-profile cases. Lynch heads the Justice Department commission that advises the attorney general on policy decisions and has experience with key issues such as political corruption, terrorism, financial crimes, and police brutality, notes the Guardian. She is likely best known for a prosecution she oversaw on her first term: that of the white police officers who abused Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997.