Despite the fact that attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch might finally be getting a vote in coming days, a group of black men are pushing Republican senators Wednesday to make the final count a decisive majority.
After insisting for weeks that a vote on Lynch’s confirmation by the full Senate had to wait until the chamber completes consideration of an unrelated human trafficking bill, Senate Majority Leader McConnell finally scheduled a Thursday vote on Lynch after a bipartisan deal was reached Tuesday to move forward on the trafficking legislation.
Lynch has the support of enough Republicans to win confirmation. Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine have all said they plan to vote for her, but the men gathering here at the Capitol said they would like to see more GOP members vote for her.
Echoing an argument put forward by Lynch supporters like former New York Mayor and one-time presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani and former FBI Director Louis Freeh, the men said the Senate should confirm Lynch with a large majority to help ensure her a strong start in the post, to send a positive message to the American people and to show that Congress can get things done.
“There’s a practical message and a principled one and the practical message is if she gets in by one vote, we still have the right attorney general in office. If she gets by more it’s saying that a Senate that in some cases has been on the other side of the politics, recognizes that this is a qualified representative and it says where this Congress is going,” said Jeff Johnson, a former host of Black Entertainment Television and one of the leaders of the group. “If she gets by by more than one two, three or four votes it says ‘Wait a minute, maybe there’s hope for this Senate.’”
The group of more than two dozen black men from around the country – including clergy, members of 100 Black Men of America, members of the Alpha Phi Alpha and Omega Psi Phi fraternities and joined by Rep. Andre Carson (D-Indiana) – aimed to meet with GOP senators, or their staffers, from states with large black populations to push them to vote for Lynch, including Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Tom Cotton of Arkansas. They also planned to speak with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Out of all the senators who have yet to decide how they’re going to vote, they have the largest African-American constituency,” said Roland Martin, the host and managing editor of a daily morning show on TV One, who helped organize the men, announced the group’s plans on television on Friday and has spread news about it on Twitter using #BrothersforLorettaLynch. “Brothers who are constituents, we’re having them lead us into the office to talk with their particular [member.]”
The group first tried to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to urge him to vote “yes” on Lynch, but instead spoke briefly in the hallway outside his leadership office with the Kentucky senator’s Deputy Chief of Staff Don Stewart. They did not have an appointment to meet with McConnell. A smaller group of black women also tried to meet with the Senate leader last week without an appointment and spoke instead with Stewart. Stewart told the men Wednesday that a vote on Lynch had been scheduled and the McConnell had not indicated publicly how he planned to vote.
Lynch, who would become the first African-American woman to head the Department of Justice, was nominated in November and has waited longer since her nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee than any of the past seven nominees for the post combined. The weeks of delays have angered her supporters and prompted a series of press conferences and conference calls as well as protests at the Capitol. After the group of black woman Lynch supporters made two trips to McConnell’s leadership office and prayed outside of it for Lynch’s confirmation, the group of black men thought it important to show their support.
“We brought men here from literally around the country to stand in support of Loretta Lynch,” said Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple AME in Baltimore, MD and one of two ministers to join the group. “This is the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March and we really wanted to make a clear statement that men are standing behind black women in this position and wanted to meet with the Republican leaders to urge them to vote for her tomorrow morning.”
Martin said this would not be the last time black men would come together to lobby members of Congress on a variety of matters, including criminal justice reform. The goal is to bring members of the group to the Capitol on a monthly basis to talk with members about issues of importance to them.