President Barack Obama used his weekly national address on Saturday to chide Senate Republicans for blocking a vote on Loretta Lynch, his nominee to replace Eric Holder as attorney general.
“No one can claim she’s unqualified. No one’s saying she can’t do the job. Senators from both parties say they support her,” Obama said. “This is purely about politics.”
Obama nominated Lynch in November after Holder announced that he’d be stepping down as soon as a successor was chosen and confirmed.Lynch sailed through her confirmation hearings unruffled and unscathed, with wide praise from both Democrats and Republicans. But she has languished in a sort of limbo ever since, her nomination jacked by Senate Republicans who have vowed to hold off a confirmation vote until a human trafficking bill with a controversial abortion amendment is squared away. The latter, as it stands now, is unlikely.
In the meantime Lynch has waited 133 days to be confirmed, the longest of any attorney general in modern history.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shown no indication that he’ll add a vote to the calendar anytime soon. If a vote doesn’t happen by the end of next week it will have to wait until after Congress takes its two-week Easter recess, which ends April 12.
“First, Republicans held up her nomination because they were upset about the actions I took to make our broken immigration system smarter and fairer. Now they’re denying her a vote until they can figure out how to pass a bill on a completely unrelated issue,” Obama said. “But they could bring her up for a yes-or-no vote at any time.”
While some Democrats, black and women leaders say race and gender have undoubtedly played some role in Lynch’s protracted nomination, Holder said he believes it’s a result of Washington being Washington. “My guess is that there is probably not a huge racial component to this, that this is really just D.C. politics, Washington at its worst,” Holder told msnbc on Friday. “A battle about something that is not connected to this nominee – holding up this nominee. I think that’s the main driver here.”
Holder said when he announced his plans to resign and Obama tapped Lynch to replace him in November, he had no idea that he’d still be in office more than four months later. He added that the unprecedented block of the president’s designate to the highest law enforcement position in the country sends a terrible message to the American people.“The notion that we would be here, where we are deadlocked about a woman who is unbelievably qualified, who received really glowing reviews about her performance during her confirmation hearing, is almost inconceivable to me,” Holder said. “When we show to the American people the dysfunction that has gripped Washington over the last few years, and add yet another layer of dysfunction, this erodes faith in our institutions. And that’s just not good for the country over the long term.”
In his weekly address, President Obama described Lynch as “tough, fair, and independent attorney” who as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York prosecuted terrorists, secured billions for people wronged by Wall Street and brought down corrupt officials and some of New York’s most reputed mobsters and gangsters.
“Republicans promised that Congress would function smoothly with them in charge. Here’s a small chance for them to prove it,” Obama said. “Congress should stop playing politics with law enforcement and national security. They should support good people in both parties who want to reform our criminal justice system. And that means they should end the longest confirmation process for an Attorney General in three decades, and give Loretta Lynch a vote.”
The stall isn’t just unprecedented, it’s historic. By Monday, Obama said, Lynch will have been “languishing on the Senate floor for longer than the seven previous Attorneys General combined.”
“Let me say that again,” Obama said, “she will have been waiting for a simple yes-or-no vote on the Senate floor for longer than the seven previous Attorneys General combined.”