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April 17, 2015

Jeb Bush Is Right On Principle Regarding Deference, But Wrong In This Case

Here’s what Jeb had to say about confirming Loretta Lynch as Attorney General.

"I think presidents have the right to pick their team," Bush said, according to reports of his stop at the "Politics and Pie" forum in Concord, New Hampshire, on Thursday night.

The former Florida governor made sure to get in a few digs at current Attorney General Eric Holder, saying that Republicans should consider that the longer it takes to confirm Lynch, the longer Holder stays.

A Senate fight over a sex-trafficking bill that includes a controversial abortion provision has held up Lynch's nomination for 160 days since Obama announced his choice last Nov. 8, but Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is threatening to break protocol and force a vote on the Senate floor.

"If someone is supportive of the president's policies, whether you agree with them or not, there should be some deference to the executive," Bush told reporters. "It should not always be partisan."

Now as a rule, I would agree with the not-quite-official presidential candidate on this point. President’s should get deference in the selection of their Cabinet officials, and absent some manifest unfitness there is rarely good reason to refuse to confirm a nominee.

But notice my use of the word “rarely”.

In this case, there are three good reasons. First, the Democrats are filibustering a piece of legislation that has bipartisan support over a provision that is a standard part of most funding bills. That particular piece of legislation has priority over a vote on the nomination – and all the Democrats have to do is defer to the majority of the Senate in order to get a vote on Lynch. Secondly, this president has time and again refused to defer to Congress and usurped the legislative power when Congress has refused to pass legislation he wants. His failure to defer to Congress’ constitutional role constitutes good reason to refuse to defer to the customary practice of automatically giving consent to a nominee to a Cabinet position – especially since his approach to solving the problem is to sling public insults at the Senate rather than actually try to negotiate with the body given constitutional authority to accept or reject the Lynch nomination to end the logjam created by his own party. Lastly, Lynch herself has indicated her intent to continue the precedent set by Eric Holder of refusing to investigate or prosecute Executive Branch corruption because doing so potentially implicates the President in law-breaking – a presidential policy that Congress must refuse to affirm by confirming an Attorney General committed to continuing it.

Do I think this disqualified Jeb Bush to be the GOP nominee in 2016? No, I don’t – but it does not do anything to endear him to me and does not increase the likelihood of my supporting his candidacy in the GOP primary.

Personally, I think that the GOP leadership is thinking way too small on this one. I believe that they need to make clear to Harry Reid that there will be no vote on the Lynch nomination until he resigns his Senate seat and goes into disgraced retirement in Nevada. Otherwise the vote should be delayed until January 19, 2017.





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