President Barack Obama’s weekly address had one message this Saturday: It’s time to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general. Obama nominated Lynch, a Brooklyn attorney, to fill the position being vacated by Eric Holder back in November, but the GOP has blocked a yes-or-no vote.
“What I do know is that she is eminently qualified. Nobody denies it,” Obama said to The Huffington Post. “Even the Republicans acknowledge she’s been a great prosecutor. She has prosecuted terrorists in New York, she has gone after organized crime, she’s gone after public corruption. Her integrity is unimpeachable. By all accounts, she’s a great manager, and the fact that she has now been lingering in this limbo for longer than the five previous attorney general nominees combined makes no sense. We need to go ahead and get this done.”
It’s been more than four months since Lynch was nominated, and Obama said that, as of this coming Monday, Lynch’s nomination “will have been languishing on the Senate floor for longer than the seven previous attorneys general combined.” So what gives?
Why won’t Republicans allow a vote?
Lynch’s confirmation vote is being held up by what Obama calls an unrelated issue. According to USA Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said Lynch’s vote won’t happen until Democrats stop filibustering of a human trafficking bill in the Senate. Democrats have been blocking the bill because it includes an anti-abortion provision.
“The only thing holding up that vote is the Democrats’ filibuster of a bill that would help prevent kids from being sold into sex slavery,” said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart, according to USA Today. “The president has yet to lift a finger to get that bill passed.”
Similarly, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has argued that Republicans shouldn’t vote for her confirmation. “We should not even bring [Lynch’s vote] up until this human trafficking bill is disposed of,” he said on The Hugh Hewitt Show.
Holder wants out
While Lynch’s confirmation has been held up, Holder has remained in office long past his announcement that he wanted to step down in September 2014. “These should be my closing days,” Holder joked in a recent speech, via CNN. “Given the Senate’s delays in scheduling Loretta Lynch’s nomination for a vote, it’s almost as if the Republicans in Congress have discovered a new fondness for me. Where was all this affection the last six years?”
Holder’s born the brunt of many Republican attacks over the past six years, including holding him in contempt of Congress over administration records related to the botched Fast and Furious investigation. Holder ends his time in office with unfavorable approval ratings. According to a CNN/ORC poll, 29% of Americans polled have a favorable impression of him, 35% have an unfavorable view, and 36% haven’t heard of him.
Is race a factor?
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) made headlines when he suggested that Lynch was receiving different treatment than former nominees because of her race. “Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar,” Durbin said. “That is unfair. It’s unjust. It is beneath the decorum and dignity of the U.S. Senate.” McCain called Durbin’s comment “offensive and unnecessary.”
Holder told MSNBC that he didn’t think race was a major factor in the delay of Lynch’s confirmation. “My guess is that there is probably not a huge racial component to this, that this is really just D.C. politics, Washington at its worst,” he said. “A battle about something that is not connected to this nominee, holding up this nominee. I think that’s the main driver here.”
The Senate’s recess schedule may cause the vote to be delayed until mid-April.
“You don’t hold attorney general nominees hostage for other issues,” Obama said to The Huffington Post. “This is our top law enforcement office. Nobody denies that she’s well-qualified. We need to go ahead and get her done.”