Again and again, Senate Republicans made one thing clear Wednesday: They would not vote to confirm Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general. They were less passionate, however, about the person they were considering to replace him, Loretta E. Lynch.
Ms. Lynch had steeled herself for tough questioning from a new Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee, particularly on her views of President Obama’s immigration policy. But the questioning was mostly cordial, and, most important, the Republicans on the committee who hold the key to Ms. Lynch’s confirmation — she needs three of their votes to proceed to a vote by the full Senate — showed little opposition.
Instead, their sharpest criticism during several hours of questioning was reserved for Mr. Holder, who is resigning as attorney general after six years in which he frequently clashed with Republican lawmakers who accused him of politicizing the Justice Department. The focus on Mr. Holder, an outspoken liberal voice in the administration who has referred to himself as the president’s “wingman,” allowed Ms. Lynch to parry the most contentious questions and present herself as an independent alternative.
“You’re not Eric Holder, are you?” asked Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a Republican who allies of Ms. Lynch believe could be persuaded to vote for her confirmation.
“No, I’m not, sir,” she replied.
“No one is suggesting that you are, but of course, Attorney General Holder’s record is heavy on our minds now,” Mr. Cornyn responded.
On the issue of immigration, Ms. Lynch said she found it “reasonable” that the Justice Department had concluded it was lawful for Mr. Obama to unilaterally ease the threat of deportation for millions of unauthorized immigrants. Mr. Holder similarly endorsed that view.
“Certainly, I was not involved in the decision,” Ms. Lynch said, a theme she revisited when asked about Mr. Holder’s decision not to defend a federal ban on same-sex marriage, about a report on state secrets and about a program to target banks that do business with questionable companies.
“You’ve asked how I will be different from Eric Holder,” Ms. Lynch told Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. “I will be Loretta Lynch.”
That could be enough to win her confirmation. Senators raised few questions about Ms. Lynch’s own record. She has spent nearly all of her career as a federal prosecutor, which has created a long record of casework but few political decisions to scrutinize. She began in government as a young lawyer at the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn and worked her way into senior management. She has twice been confirmed by the Senate to serve as the United States attorney there.
SOURCE: CARL HULSE and MATT APUZZO
The New York Times