Loretta Lynch Heads Toward Confirmation as Attorney General
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Five months after she was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as attorney general, Loretta Lynch will finally get a confirmation vote in the Senate.
Lynch is expected to win approval with the support of all Democrats and at least five Republicans in the vote set for Thursday. Now U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, she would replace Eric Holder and become the nation's first black female attorney general.
Lynch has had to wait far longer than most recent attorney general nominees to be confirmed, for a variety of political reasons. Most recently, Republican leaders decided to hold off on her confirmation until an unrelated bill on human trafficking was completed, but it hit unexpected gridlock over an abortion funding provision and the dispute dragged on for six weeks.
A deal on the abortion issue was reached earlier this week and the trafficking bill passed unanimously on Wednesday.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said he was "saddened to see Republicans use the trafficking bill disagreement as an excuse to delay an entirely unrelated vote on Loretta Lynch's nomination to serve as attorney general."
"I'm glad that the trafficking bill passed and that Loretta Lynch finally appears headed for confirmation," Franken said.
Democrats have grown incensed over the long delay in confirming Lynch, with Obama himself weighing in last week to lament Senate dysfunction and decry the wait as "crazy" and "embarrassing." Democrats controlled the Senate when Lynch was nominated last November and could have brought up her nomination for a vote, but they held off with the GOP's encouragement after they were routed in the midterm elections, and spent the time confirming judges instead.
There was an expectation that Republican leaders would move Lynch's nomination swiftly this year, especially since most GOP members of Congress loathe Holder, who's seen as too politically close to Obama and even more liberal. But instead, the nomination became tangled in the dispute over Obama's executive actions limiting deportations for millions of immigrants in the country illegally. Once Lynch voiced support for Obama's moves a number of potential Republican supporters abandoned her, and her nomination seemed to stall.
Still, five Republicans have said they intend to vote for Lynch - Mark Kirk of Illinois, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine. That means she would win confirmation with at least 51 votes and no need for Vice President Joe Biden to cast a tie-breaking vote, as had looked possible in recent months.
Lynch, who grew up in North Carolina, has been the top prosecutor since 2010 for a district that includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, a role she also held from 1999 to 2001. She is seen as a straight-shooter, has wide law enforcement support, and is viewed as a noncontroversial choice.