Loretta Lynch was nominated to serve as U.S. Attorney General 118 days ago. Over the last several decades, no A.G. nominee has had to wait this long for a confirmation vote. And yet, here we are, wondering why the Senate’s Republican leadership still won’t allow members to vote up or down on Lynch’s nomination.
It’s tough to defend, and just as important, it’s evidence of a Senate that’s failing at some rudimentary tasks.
Specifically on Lynch, the Democratic minority yesterday made clear how absurd it is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t bring her nomination to the floor.
Senate Democrats on Thursday intensified their push for a vote on the confirmation of Loretta E. Lynch as attorney general, arguing that her nomination should not be held up because Republicans are angry with President Obama over executive action on immigration.“The delay is wrong and it is irresponsible,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said during a conference call with reporters. “She should be judged on her merits and not used as a pawn in a proxy fight over the president’s immigration policies.”
It’s tough to disagree. Lynch sailed through her confirmation hearings; she’s already received the Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan backing; and by all appearances, she has the votes needed to clear the Senate and get to work.
And yet, McConnell waits. When Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was advanced at the committee level, his nomination was on the Senate floor two days later, and he was confirmed easily. Lynch was nominated before Carter, she cleared committee last week, and yet the whole process is being slow-walked for reasons the GOP has struggled to explain.
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told the New York Times, “[O]n the anniversary of Selma, [Lynch] is being told, just be patient and wait your turn. That’s wrong and beneath the Senate.”
The problem arguably extends beyond Lynch.
Since the start of this Congress, the new, Republican-led Senate has approved only two executive-branch nominees and exactly zero judicial nominees. (Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley recently boasted the Senate has confirmed 11 judicial nominees. He was off by 11.)
It’s tempting to think this is the norm when the Senate is governed by one party while the White House is led by another, but as Jonathan Bernstein noted this week, at this point in 2007 – when there was a Democratic Senate and a Republican White House – Harry Reid and the Democratic majority “had already confirmed 18 of George W. Bush’s nominees: eight judges, including a circuit court judge, and 10 executive-branch officials.”
In other words, what we’re seeing so far in 2015 isn’t some partisan norm. It’s much, much worse.
McConnell vowed that he’d play a key role in restoring a more responsive and effective Senate. So far, the evidence of progress is elusive.