More than four months since the White House nominated Loretta Lynch to be attorney general, President Barack Obama is venting his frustration at a lack of progress and pushing for a confirmation.
“You don’t hold attorney general nominees hostage for other issues. This is our top law enforcement office. Nobody denies that she’s well-qualified, we need to go ahead and get her done,” Obama told the Huffington Post. “The fact that she has now been lingering in this limbo for longer than the five previous attorney general nominees combined makes no sense.”
Last Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN he would not schedule a vote for Lynch until an otherwise bipartisan human trafficking bill – stalled over an abortion provision opposed by most Democrats – passes the chamber.
Democrats accuse Republicans of sneaking language into the human trafficking bill to prevent women from using restitution funds paid by perpetrators to get an abortion, although that provision was in the bill that passed the committee.
Until there’s a vote on the trafficking bill, Lynch’s nomination remains in limbo.
“She is eminently qualified. Nobody denies that, even the Republicans acknowledge,” Obama said, citing Lynch’s achievements as a prosecutor of organized crime, terrorism, and corruption.
Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, fired back on CNN Friday evening.
“I don’t know what [Obama] thinks we’re holding her hostage for,” he said.
Risch said there would be a vote on the human trafficking bill as soon as the Democrats stop filibustering, and “the very next moment, there’s going to be a vote on the attorney general nominee.”
“Why they’re doing this is absolutely beyond me,” Risch told CNN.
Even when Lynch’s nomination comes up for a vote, Risch said he will not vote for her, saying he disagrees “vehemently” with her view on executive action. Testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee in February, Lynch expressed support for Obama’s executive action late last year which shielded millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Nonetheless, Risch said, he expects Lynch to be confirmed with bipartisan support.
Obama also used his weekly address to make the case for a Lynch confirmation, calling out Congress for “playing politics with law enforcement and national security.”
“Republicans promised that Congress would function smoothly with them in charge. Here’s a small chance for them to prove it,” Obama said. “They should end the longest confirmation process for an attorney general in three decades, and give Loretta Lynch a vote.”
Attorney General Eric Holder is prepared to stay in office until Lynch is confirmed.
“The irony is, of course, that the Republicans really dislike Mr. Holder. If they really want to get rid of him, the best way to do it is to go ahead and get Loretta Lynch confirmed,” Obama told the Huffington Post.