Senators don’t have to approve presidential nominations for Cabinet, court and other positions. But they should at least make those decisions in a timely manner.
So though it was good news Tuesday when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the full Senate will soon vote on the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general, that legislative duty has waited far too long.
Sen. McConnell offered that belated assurance Tuesday after finally reaching a compromise with Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on abortion language in a sex-trafficking bill.
You need not be a fan of President Barack Obama — or of his picking Ms. Lynch as the next attorney general — to find the modern Capitol Hill pattern of needlessly protracted confirmation processes troubling.
The president nominated Ms. Lynch last Nov. 8. The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended her confirmation on Feb. 26. So why hasn’t she gotten an up-or-down vote yet?
Democrats held up the sex-trafficking bill after discovering language, inserted by Sen. John Coryn, R-Texas, restricting federal abortion funding for trafficking victims to cases of rape and incest. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., spoke for many in her party who opposed that wording on pro-choice “principle.”
Republicans fairly countered that the abortion-funding clause merely echoed federal Hyde Amendment limitations that have long been in place.
The logjam has at last been broken by a “dual funding” deal that, according to Politico, allows “both Democrats and Republicans a way to save face.” As that story reported Tuesday: “Democratic leaders can say they aren’t expanding the Hyde amendment’s reach into privately funded accounts and the GOP can boast that the bill still contains some abortion restrictions.”
But again, it shouldn’t have taken this long.
Yes, during her confirmation hearings, Lynch was far from convincing while defending President Obama’s bad habit of executive actions, including on immigration policy, that are at best constitutionally dubious and at worst alarming overreaches of his legal authority.
Yet any senator who finds Ms. Lynch’s perspective on this president’s arbitrary power grabs unacceptable can vote against her confirmation. And she evidently has enough votes to become the next AG. That actually should please many Americans rightly dismayed by the performance of Eric Holder, the man she will replace.
The Senate does have a duty to effectively scrutinize presidential nominees before approving — or rejecting — them.
However, barring some clearly disqualifying factor, lawmakers should give presidents reasonable deference in their choices.
After all, as many politicians in both parties, including Mr. Obama, frequently point out, “Elections have consequences.”
And one consequence is that the people who win the White House tend to appoint people with similar viewpoints. For instance, it’s difficult to imagine any AG nominee telling senators that the president who picked her — or him — has violated the Constitution.
So the Senate should move forward to confirm Ms. Lynch.
Meanwhile, politicians in both parties should move away from the troubling trend of lengthy postponements of up-or-down votes on presidential appointments.