Sen. Ted Cruz led the Republican charge against Loretta Lynch’s confirmation, arguing vehemently for months that her support for President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration disqualified her from being the top law enforcement officer of the land.
But when it came time for a vote on her historic nomination to be the first African-American female attorney general, the Texas Republican and 2016 presidential candidate was AWOL. He was the only senator to miss the vote even though he voted earlier in the day on a related procedural motion and delivered a floor speech railing against Lynch’s confirmation.
In another unexpected twist, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted in support of Lynch, after taking heat for holding up a vote on her nomination because of a conflict with Democrats on an unrelated measure.
Cruz’s Senate and campaign staff argued the procedural vote was more important than the final confirmation vote. They also blasted the ten Republicans who voted for Lynch.
“Seems to me the story is on the senators who voted for another lawless AG,” said Rick Tyler, a national campaign spokesperson for the Cruz.
Other staffers jumped on Twitter to defend his decision to miss the vote.
While the aides didn’t reveal why he skipped out, Cruz’s presidential campaign website says Cruz is scheduled for a Thursday evening fundraiser at the Dallas home of super wealthy businessman Tom Hicks and his wife, Cinda.
The 29,000-square-foot Italian-style mansion where the fundraiser is taking place is listed on real estate websites as being for sale for an eye-popping $100 million.
“Walnut Place, a truly irreplaceable estate,” says a description about the 25-acre parcel, just minutes from downtown Dallas.
Democrats couldn’t believe that Cruz did not show up for the final vote after all the fuss he made about Lynch.
“I have no idea why” he missed it, said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said immediately after the vote. “But if he’s ducking it, it’s not a good thing.”
Turns out Lynch’s confirmation vote was not the only vote he missed this week. In fact, he missed 10 of the 11 votes cast this week.
McConnell, meanwhile, was one of 10 Republican senators to vote to confirm her as the first black woman to lead the Justice Department.
Lynch’s vote was delayed after McConnell insisted the Senate complete work on an anti-human trafficking bill held up by a partisan debate over an anti-abortion provision.
But after a deal was struck to modify the bill, it passed unanimously, paving the way for Thursday’s confirmation.
Lynch was confirmed by a vote of 56 to 43, as her father, a Baptist minister, and supporters from on and off Capitol Hill looked on from the Senate gallery.
After the vote, McConnell walked off the Senate floor and shook hands with several of the female African-American House members who came over to watch the vote. He smiled and told them he had kept his word about getting the confirmation vote done.
“She’s going to be a great attorney general,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, who had been one of the most vocal House members pushing for the vote.
“I sure hope so,” McConnell responded, laughing.
McConnell wouldn’t say why he voted yes.
Several groups of black women and men in recent weeks had lobbied loudly and insistently for him to schedule a vote on Lynch. Once that vote was scheduled, Lynch supporters pressured him to vote “yes” on her confirmation. The groups arrived unannounced at his leadership office in the Capitol at least three times to make their case. One group of black women, including clergy, prayed outside his office on two occasions, asking God for a vote on Lynch.
Later, his spokesman Don Stewart cited not the persistent lobbying effort, but the Kentucky senator’s desire to usher in a new era at the Justice Department as the reason he voted for Lynch.
“The Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder has too often put partisan and ideological considerations ahead of the rule of law,” Stewart said.
“It is a department desperately in need of new direction and leadership. I am hopeful that Ms. Lynch will use her lengthy professional experience and skills to provide the new leadership, reform and improved relations with the Congress that the department sorely needs,” he said.