Lynch nomination stalled amid political standoff

Is abortion the reason for Lynch confirmation delay?
Is abortion the reason for Lynch confirmation delay?

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    Is abortion the reason for Lynch confirmation delay?

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Is abortion the reason for Lynch confirmation delay? 02:13

Washington (CNN)Mitch McConnell isn't budging.

More than four months -- 157 days to be exact -- since President Barack Obama picked Loretta Lynch to become the first African American woman to lead the Justice Department, the majority leader isn't moving on the nomination.
It's not that she doesn't have the votes -- at least five Republicans plan to join Democrats to support her, ensuring she has the margin needed to be approved. Instead, Lynch is caught in an unrelated partisan tussle over abortion that shows no sign of easing as lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill Monday following a two-week recess.
The debate has all the trademarks of the latest meltdown in a Congress that often struggles to perform the most basic tasks like fund the Department of Homeland Security.
    But Lynch's stalled nomination is taking on historic tones -- and not in the way Obama intended. No attorney general nominee since the days of Ronald Reagan has had to wait this long to be confirmed. And the irony is that, by holding her up, Republicans are keeping in place the member of Obama's cabinet they loathe the most: Eric Holder, who will remain on the job until Lynch takes over.
    "The Republican Leader said she would receive fair consideration by the Senate. Well that hasn't happened," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said angrily on the floor Monday. "Now we're halfway thru April and once again Senate Democrats are ready and willing to confirm a new attorney general but the Republicans are not. Ms. Lynch has a spotless record. No one can question her integrity, her background and there's no question that she shouldn't have to wait any longer."
    Despite the pressure that grows with each day, McConnell isn't backing down from his plan to use Lynch as leverage to force Democrats to relent on the abortion language. Once they do that, McConnell's aides say the majority leader will be happy to bring up Lynch's nomination for a vote.
    Of course, Democrats helped create this standoff. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a human trafficking bill containing the abortion provision with plenty of Democratic support. It was only later that Democrats said they didn't realize the bill contained the abortion language and began a filibuster.
    McConnell told CNN Monday that he will bring Lynch's nomination to the Senate floor for a vote, "right after we get through the trafficking" bill.
    "That's been my position for a month now and it remains the same," he said.
    While staff negotiations took place over the recess, multiple aides on both sides report little progress. That means Lynch remains in limbo while lawmaker continue to wrestle with one of the most divisive issue in American politics. Both sides are defiant and insist they won't give in.
    At issue is language in the bill that prevents fines assessed on human trafficking offenders, which are to be paid in restitution to victims, from being used to cover the costs of many abortions. Republicans say it is a standard abortion funding restriction -- known in Capitol Hill parlance as Hyde language -- that has been in countless bills for 40 years. But Democrats disagree. They say Hyde generally, though not always, applies to tax dollars in government spending bills while in this case it applies to fines or fees raised from sex traffickers.
    Proposed compromises include having the restitution money paid from government spending bills, where Hyde already applies, instead of fines, but so far an agreement has been elusive. 12 Democrats supported the original language so Republican negotiators are trying to appease just two more Democrats to get the 60 votes they need to move the bill.
    It's not clear if they will get it.
    Meantime, Democrats are insisting Lynch should not be linked to the abortion fight and should be approved while the human trafficking bill is negotiated.
    "We will not back off on the pressure to get Lynch done," said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid.