Republicans delay vote on attorney general nominee

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Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have delayed the panel's vote on President Obama's attorney general nominee, at least until the end of the month.

Republicans asked new Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to delay the vote Thursday morning, saying they have more questions for Loretta Lynch, who is now the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Grassley agreed, saying it was standard procedure when members request more time for inquiry. He said the vote will take place after the Presidents' Day recess.

Lynch, who would be replacing Eric Holder, appeared before the panel in late January and faced a barrage of questions from Republicans regarding the president's executive actions on immigration, gay marriage, voting rights laws, the IRS scandal and Holder's handling of the office in general. On Thursday, Republicans said they still have questions.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said he wanted to know more about a $1.9 billion settlement imposed by the Lynch's office three years ago that allowed Europe's largest bank, HSBC, to avoid prosecution in a massive drug money laundering scandal. The settlement has been questioned by lawmakers on Capitol Hill now that the bank has been implicated with new charges that it helped its wealthiest clients avoid paying taxes in their home countries.

"I would offer that as a specific reason to hold [the vote] over," Vitter said during the hearing.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, offered some reticence on the delay, saying that while he would respect Grassley's decision to delay, he planned to vote in favor of Lynch based on her qualifications for the job.

But freshman Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., suggested the panel had not given Lynch's nomination a thorough enough examination in January, and wanted to ask "specific answers on how [she] is going to operate as the chief executive of the Department of Justice."

"I'm looking at this like an executive job interview," he said, claiming the "very brief" time he had to question her in January was not enough. "I'm simply trying to do my job and to do a thorough review to make sure we have somebody who not only has the legal mind but the wherewithal to manage a department" as critical as the DOJ.

The holdover drew criticism from Democratic committee members who saw it as an ideological stalling tactic.

"She's just incredibly good. I can't understand why people would vote against her unless you are saying she does not have the same views as you do," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "At the hearing she showed us she is even better in person than on paper. So let's just vote."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said by delaying, the committee was depriving the country of an aggressive terrorism prosecutor at a time when Islamic militants are recruiting people right out of the United States. "We now have an opportunity to put a new attorney general in at a very dangerous time in our country's history," she said. "We cannot delay."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.