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There’s A 92 Percent Chance The Senate Will Confirm Loretta Lynch As Attorney General

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s 12 to 8 vote to send Loretta Lynch’s nomination for attorney general to the full Senate suggests that she’ll be confirmed by a small but comfortable margin. In the past, Judiciary Committee votes have been fairly predictive of Senate confirmation votes.

Since 1977, 11 attorney general nominees have gotten a vote in front of the full Senate. That’s not a huge sample, but most of the variation among these votes (90 percent) can be explained by the number of “no” votes the nominee received in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

YEAR ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE ‘NO’ VOTES FULL SENATE VOTE MARGIN
2009 Eric Holder 2 54
2007 Michael Mukasey 8 13
2005 Alberto Gonzales 8 24
2001 John Ashcroft 8 16
1993 Janet Reno 0 98
1991 William Barr 0 100
1988 Richard Thornburgh 0 85
1985 Edwin Meese III 6 32
1981 William French Smith 0 95
1979 Benjamin Civiletti 2 93
1977 Griffin Bell 3 54

Lynch, of course, needs more “yes” votes than “no” votes in the full Senate to be confirmed. Lynch’s eight “no” votes in the Judiciary Committee, according to the pattern for past nominees, suggests that she would be confirmed 92 percent of the time. More precisely, she should get 16 more “yes” than “no” votes (or 58 “yes” votes if all the senators voted).

Of course, there is a margin of error associated with this prediction. The last three nominees who received 8 “no” votes in committee (John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey) were ultimately confirmed by margins of between 13 and 24 votes.

It’s possible that something could come up between Lynch’s committee vote and the full Senate vote that would make her a less desirable nominee, which is why her odds of confirmation are only 92 percent and not 100 percent. Anything between 49 and 67 “yes” votes (if the entire Senate voted) would be within the 90 percent confidence interval of this model.

This leaves some room for Lynch to be denied confirmation, though not much. Right now, Lynch has about the same chance of being confirmed as President Obama had of winning on the eve of the 2012 presidential election.

Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

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