Senate Clears Way for Vote on Loretta Lynch to Be U.S. Attorney General

Loretta Lynch

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The Senate cleared the way for a final vote later Thursday on confirming Loretta Lynch as the first black woman to become U.S. attorney general, more than five months after she was nominated.

Senators advanced Lynch’s confirmation on a 66-34 procedural vote, and a final vote is set for later in the day. Lynch, 55, was nominated Nov. 8 by President Barack Obama.

Lynch would replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who has remained on the job until his successor is confirmed. Obama said on April 17 that the delay in a vote for Lynch was embarrassing and accused lawmakers of “political gamesmanship.”

“She’s as qualified a candidate as I’ve ever seen in my time in the Senate,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “Loretta Lynch’s confirmation this time around should have sailed through the Senate.”

On Wednesday, Senators voted 99-0 to pass a bill to curb human trafficking, a measure the chamber’s majority Republicans insisted on completing before they would allow a vote on Lynch. Not voting was Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate. The anti-trafficking measure goes to the House.

Lynch’s “credentials are impeccable, her moral character is beyond reproach,” the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Democratic Representative G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, said at a news conference Wednesday. “The politics must end.”

Long Wait

Second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Lynch has waited 55 days for a vote since the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced her nomination. None of the previous eight attorneys general had to wait more than 10 days, he said.

The last nominee to take longer to win conformation after being approved by committee was Richard Kleindienst, President Richard Nixon’s attorney general. Kleindienst resigned in 1973 during the Watergate investigation. The Senate spent 100 days considering his nomination after the committee acted.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, had insisted on first resolving a fight with Democrats over anti-abortion language in the trafficking bill.

The human-trafficking bill, S. 178, would establish a Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund, financed by imposing a $5,000 assessment on people convicted of crimes including human smuggling, slavery and sexual exploitation of children.

Victims’ Aid

The attorney general could use the fund to make grants for aid to victims and to fund investigations and law enforcement.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, said in a statement, “Our work is not finished” on curbing human trafficking.

Democrats had objected to anti-abortion language in the measure. They contended the bill would subject non-public money -- the $5,000 assessment payments -- to a federal ban on use of taxpayer funds for most abortions.

In a compromise announced Tuesday, the assessments would be used to aid human-trafficking survivors without being subjected to the abortion restriction.

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