01:45 - Source: CNN
John McCain and Dick Durbin argue over Lynch nomination
Washington CNN —  

Democrats refuse to retract their accusations that the voting delay on Loretta Lynch’s attorney general nomination is racially motivated, despite GOP protestations otherwise.

The two-time U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York would be the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to delay a vote on her confirmation by the full Senate until the chamber completes consideration of sex trafficking legislation.

READ: Durbin says GOP puts AG nominee ‘in the back of the bus’

Lynch, who was nominated in November, has waited longer for a vote in the full Senate than the past five nominees to the post combined, her supporters say. In a press conference aimed at pushing McConnell to schedule a vote on Lynch, House Democrats touted her qualifications and the bipartisan vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee to send her nomination to the full Senate.

Repeating charges laid out by other Democrats earlier in the week, several said they believed her race was one reason for the hold up.

“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck and it is clear to me that there is hidden racism rampant in the House and the Senate,” said Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida. “Let’s call it what it is. I mean, I know it’s not comfortable to talk about it, but that’s what it is.”

Those remarks followed comments Wednesday by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, who said Republicans were asking Lynch to “sit in the back of the bus” when it comes to the Senate calendar. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus also said Lynch’s race was playing a role in the delay.

The accusations, which have angered Republicans, come as the GOP is aiming to expand its appeal to attract more minority voters heading into the 2016 presidential race.

SEE: Standoff over AG nominee endures

New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney cited several “isms” involved in the current standoff – obstructionism, feminism and sexism. She noted the battle over the Senate bill was about issues of importance to women, since the legislation had broad bipartisan support until Democrats discovered it contained a provision that would prevent the use of victims compensation funds for abortions.

Republicans have repeatedly said race is not a factor in the delay and that it is up to Democrats to allow a vote on the trafficking bill.

“It has nothing to do with race whatsoever,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota. “What the Republicans are working on right now on the floor is trying to pass the human trafficking legislation.”

A procedural vote to end debate on the bill failed for the third time on Thursday.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona took to the Senate floor earlier in the day to blast Durbin for his “back of the bus” comments, calling them “totally inappropriate.”

“Such inflammatory rhetoric has no place in this body and serves no purpose other than to further divide us,” McCain said. “I think he owes this body, Ms. Lynch and all Americans an apology.”

McCain noted that Durbin helped hold up the nomination of an African-American woman, Janice Rogers Brown, to a federal appeals court in 2005. The nominee was eventually confirmed after members struck a deal.

“The senator from Illinois voted against the historic nomination. I would never suggest, even with veiled rhetoric, that Judge Rogers Brown’s race was the reason for the senator from Illinois’ opposition to her nomination,” McCain went on to say. “He should extend that same courtesy to me and my colleagues.”

Durbin, who spoke on the floor immediately after McCain, did not apologize.