A group of black women confronted a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Capitol Wednesday morning, demanding a vote on Loretta Lynch’s nomination as attorney general.
It was the second time in recent months that the group – which included lawyers and clergy – showed up outside the Kentucky senator’s leadership office in the Capitol pushing for confirmation of the first African-American woman to be nominated for the post. Lynch has been waiting more than 150 days for a vote.
Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff and communications director for McConnell, held an impromptu meeting with the group. The women did not have an appointment to meet with McConnell and were in danger of being kicked out of the building by the Capitol Police, before Stewart agreed to talk with them.
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During the roughly five-minute meeting, the women demanded to know when a Lynch vote would be scheduled.
“As soon as we’re done with the anti-slavery bill,” Stewart said, when asked for a date certain for the Lynch vote.
Stewart acknowledged that other nominees had been confirmed even as the Senate debated other topics, but repeated McConnell’s position that a vote would have to wait until after consideration of the now-controversial human trafficking bill.
McConnell pledged weeks ago to delay a vote on Lynch’s confirmation by the full Senate until the chamber completes consideration of the bill. That legislation had bipartisan support until Democrats discovered Republicans had added an anti-abortion provision they oppose. Several procedural votes to end debate on the bill have failed.
“We have yet another bipartisan compromise and we’re going to see tomorrow if Democrats continue to filibuster that bill. We hope they don’t,” Stewart said, referring to a compromise offered by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that has been rejected by Senate Democrats.
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Lynch’s supporters are furious, with a variety of groups hosting a series of conference calls and press conferences calling on McConnell to schedule a vote. But Wednesday’s impromptu meeting outside the majority leader’s office was the most direct confrontation in the campaign for a Lynch vote.
Two McConnell constituents from Kentucky told Stewart they had flown to Washington for the purpose of pressuring their state’s senator, after visiting his offices in Lexington and Louisville.
“We don’t want to politic,” said one of the women, Enchanta Jackson. “We’re tired of delays and waiting on this and I think it’s great that you came out to meet with us, but we don’t want to politic right now. We want you hear us and hear what we want.”
“I’ve heard you and I promise you the leader has heard all this and the leader has said she would get that vote,” Stewart responded.
Stewart called on the group to help the Senate pass the human trafficking bill, but the women said their focus was on Lynch.
“We are frustrated and we are coming in faith, because we believe that a change has to happen and what we’re going to do in Kentucky, we’re not stopping and we’re going to make it uncomfortable, very uncomfortable for the senator to continue to do this,” said Rev. Regina Thomas, pastor of the Allen AME Church in New Jersey.
Several of the women said they planned to begin fasting one day a week until Lynch is confirmed – part of an initiative organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
“Senate leaders must hear the call of the people who want to see a vote called for Loretta Lynch,” said Janaye Ingram, NAN National Executive Director in a statement. “She is a twice unanimously confirmed United States Attorney and the fact that she has yet to be confirmed, five months after the nomination is nothing more than partisan politics. We stand with Loretta Lynch and are so in support of this cause that we are willing to sacrifice our daily meals to impress upon the U.S. Senate that it’s time to call a vote.”