Loretta Lynch, the nominee for attorney general, stood by President Obama's deportation relief program on Wednesday amid tenacious questioning by Republicans in the Senate who oppose the action.
The toughest questions came from the Senate's immigration hardliners, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). All have been critical of the president's unilateral decision to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. without threat of deportation.
It's not clear that Republicans have enough votes to block Lynch's confirmation, but they used the hearing as an opportunity to hit Obama's immigration policies.
Early in the confirmation hearing, Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, asked if she agreed with the Justice Department's legal rationale for the program.
"I don't see any reason to doubt the reasonableness of those views," she replied.
Lynch's view are crucial to the implementation of the plan, one of Obama's signature initiatives. When the president announced the new immigration policy in November, the Justice Department issued a 33-page legal memorandum backing it up.
The memo hasn't shaken off critics, however. Although the program isn't expected to be fully implemented until May, a coalition of 26 states have already take the administration to court over the issue, and Republicans in Congress have attempted to strip funding for the program. If that strategy fails, GOP leaders have floated the idea of taking legal action.
Lynch, who could become the first black woman to serve as attorney general, navigated the questioning cautiously. At one point, she mentioned that the deportation relief program doesn't take away the government's power to remove an immigrant from the country, if that's deemed necessary.
"As a prosecutor, I always want the ability to still take some sort of action against those who may not be in my initial category as the most serious threat," she said. "And I didn't see anything in the opinion that prevented action being taken from individuals who might otherwise qualify for the deferral."
Time and time again, she repeated her support for the deportation relief program, without delving too far into the heated political battle around the plan.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.