In an emotional speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Republican Sen. John McCain blasted Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois for recent comments suggesting Republicans had racial motivations for delaying a vote on Loretta Lynch to be attorney general.
“That is unfair, it is unjust. It is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate,” McCain said. “Such inflammatory rhetoric has no place in this body and serves no purpose other than to further divide us.”
Durbin’s controversial comment came during a floor speech Wednesday when he complained that Lynch “is being asked to sit on the back of the bus when it comes to Senate calendar.”
Republicans immediately condemned his accusation and said the only thing holding up Lynch’s confirmation is an abortion-related fight on a human trafficking bill that Democrats are filibustering.
“At no time has the majority leader ever indicated that he would not bring the Lynch nomination to the floor,” McCain said. “Had the senator from Illinois and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle not filibustered this bill over a manufactured crisis we could have considered the Lynch nomination this week.”
“I deeply regret that the senator from Illinois chose to come here yesterday and question the integrity and motivation, mine and my Republican colleagues,” McCain went on. “It was offensive and unnecessary and I think he owes this body, Ms. Lynch, and all Americans an apology.”
Durbin, who listened while McCain spoke, took to the floor immediately after but never directly discussed his “back of the bus” comment. Instead he spoke about how unfair it is that Lynch, who was first nominated in November, has had to wait so long to get a vote.
He said Lynch has had her nomination pending for 131 days, which he says was twice the length it took for Attorney General Eric Holder to be confirmed.
“Why?” he asked. “I sat in the hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, for this nominee Loretta Lynch. There were no questions raised of any nature of any kind questioning her ability to serve as attorney general, none.”
Wednesday in response, Durbin told the Senate floor that “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.”
“That is unfair. It’s unjust. It is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate. This woman deserves fairness,” he added.
His comments angered Republicans, including McCain, because they felt that the Lynch’s race had nothing to do with the Senate confirmation. They also point out that Lynch would be replacing an African-American attorney general, Holder.
Lynch was officially nominated to replace Holder by Obama on last November.
This is not the first time Durbin has suggested GOP leaders had racial motivations for holding up a vote for Lynch.
On March 3, shortly before the 50th anniversary of the Selma March, Durbin said “it’s difficult to reconcile” why on the anniversary of the historic march Senate Republican’s would leave Lynch “languishing on the Senate calendar for no reason.”
Asked then by CNN if he believed there was a racial component to the GOP leadership’s decisions regarding Lynch, Durbin refused to say yes.
“They are motivated first and foremost in stopping the nominees of President Obama. That’s their number one goal,” Durbin said. “And number two, if they can’t come up with a good reason, they just let them sit on the calendar. This poor lady has been sitting longer than any nominee in 40 years. Or goodness sake, give her a chance to serve.”