Senate panel backs Loretta Lynch as attorney general

Senate panel backs Loretta Lynch as attorney general

© Joshua Roberts / Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to back Loretta Lynch as President Barack Obama's next attorney general, clearing way for her expected confirmation in the full Senate.

The 20-member panel voted 12-8 in favor of Lynch, 55, a career prosecutor who is currently the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn.

Only three out of 11 Republicans on the panel voted to endorse her nomination.

If confirmed, Lynch would become the first black woman to serve as the nation's top law enforcement official. She would replace Eric Holder, who has held the post since 2009.

At her Jan. 28 confirmation hearing, Lynch sought to smooth interactions with Republicans, who have repeatedly clashed with Holder, by emphasizing her determination for a "new and improved" relationship.

But Senate Republicans delayed a scheduled vote on her nomination two weeks ago in order to further scrutinize Lynch's record, in particular her support of the Obama administration's immigration order and a settlement she forged with HSBC Holdings PLC in 2012 over money-laundering allegations.

Since her hearing, a Texas district court has thrown Obama's executive order on immigration into legal limbo and HSBC has come under fire over allegations it helped clients evade taxes in their home countries.

Republicans have criticized Lynch for not probing the bank further over tax evasion at the time her office negotiated a $1.2 billion accord with them.

Lynch has said that fostering better relations between law enforcement and minority communities, and fighting cybercrime would be among her main priorities at the Justice Department. Counter-terror initiatives and balancing privacy rights against government surveillance efforts are also expected to top her in-tray.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Lisa Lambert)