Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On the Nominations Of Ashton Carter to be the Secretary of Defense, And of Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General of the United States

The Senate will vote today on the confirmation of Dr. Ashton Carter to fill a critically important Cabinet position – that of Secretary of Defense.  Dr. Carter is a dedicated and distinguished public servant.  He has been confirmed – unanimously – to two senior positions in the Pentagon.  He has been recognized as a four-time recipient of the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, and he has been awarded the Defense Intelligence Medal.  I have no doubt the vote today in support of his confirmation will be overwhelming.

The Defense Department faces important, timely and difficult decisions in the coming months and years concerning how best to balance fiscal constraints with existing and emerging international challenges.  Having served as the day-to-day financial officer of the Pentagon, Dr. Carter has the demonstrated experience to manage the complexities of the Pentagon’s budget.  I believe that Dr. Carter will build upon the work of Secretary Hagel to chart a path toward fiscal accountability within the Department, while maintaining the military capabilities needed to face current global threats.

Dr. Carter is receiving his confirmation vote little more than a week after he testified before the Armed Services Committee, and just two days after his nomination was reported to the full Senate.  That swift action is commendable given the importance of the position.  However, it is a disappointment that this morning, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee chose to hold over for two weeks another critical Cabinet nomination – that of Loretta Lynch to be the Attorney General of the United States, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. 

Loretta Lynch is a renowned prosecutor who has twice been unanimously confirmed by the Senate.  She has worked to put criminals behind bars for such crimes as terrorism and fraud.  The President nominated Ms. Lynch nearly 100 days ago.  It has been more than two weeks since she testified before the Judiciary Committee.  In addition to nearly eight hours of live testimony, she has responded to more than 600 written questions.  Her nomination has been pending longer than for any modern Attorney General nominee. 

In 2007, after Democrats regained control of the Senate, it took just 53 days from President Bush’s announcement of Michael Mukasey’s nomination to serve as Attorney General to his confirmation.  After Mr. Mukasey’s hearing, Senate Democrats could have held his nomination over in committee, but we did not.  While I ultimately voted against Mr. Mukasey because of his responses relating to questions on torture, as Chairman, I promptly moved forward in the committee’s handling of his nomination.  In fact, I held a special markup session in order for the committee to be able to report his nomination as soon as possible.  He was confirmed by the Senate two days later.  Republicans should extend the same courtesy with respect to Ms. Lynch’s nomination to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

I look forward to working with Dr. Carter on issues of great importance to Vermonters and to the nation, particularly concerning our continued diplomatic efforts to end Iran’s nuclear program; in halting and reversing the proliferation of landmines around the world; in responsibly managing the Pentagon; and in supporting our service members at home and abroad.  I also look forward to working with Loretta Lynch when the Senate ultimately confirms her nomination.  I urge the Republican Leader to serve the national interest by scheduling a confirmation vote on her nomination as soon as she is reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 26th.  She has already waited far longer for her confirmation vote than any Attorney General in modern history. 

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