After an unprecedented delay of more than 160 days, the Senate on Thursday finally voted to confirm Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general. She makes history as the first African-American female to serve as the nation's top law enforcement officer. The Senate confirmed Lynch in a 56-43 vote on Thursday, after a historic delay caused in part by partisan wrangling over an anti-human trafficking bill.
President Obama nominated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to serve as the nation's Attorney General way back on Nov. 8. The ensuing delay was, at various times, exasperating, ridiculous, and unprecedented.
But as of this afternoon, Lynch's long delay came to an end.
The margin of today's vote was larger than expected. As recently as last month, it was an open question as to whether Lynch, despite her qualifications and unimpeachable record, would find enough Republican support to be confirmed. Indeed, as recently as mid-March, only four GOP senators publicly endorsed her nomination -- enough to get Lynch to 50.
Reflecting on Lynch's nomination in February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reportedly boasted, "Oh, she's going down."
Evidently not. Lynch actually picked up 10 Republican supporters -- twice as many as expected -- with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
It's no coincidence that Ayotte, Johnson, Kirk, and Portman are seen as vulnerable GOP incumbents, and they're eager to demonstrate their mainstream bona fides. McConnell's vote, meanwhile, caught nearly everyone off guard, especially given the fact that he was chiefly responsible for months of needless delays.
As for Cochran, another unexpected pro-Lynch vote, it's worth noting for context that the Mississippi Republican wouldn't even be in the Senate right now were it not for African Americans saving his career in a GOP primary last year.
That said, Lynch's 56-43 vote, though more one-sided than expected, is among the closest for any A.G. nominee in history -- despite the fact that her detractors raised no substantive objections to Lynch, her background, her qualifications, her credentials, or her temperament.
As for the bigger picture, this afternoon's vote will likely bolster the Beltway chatter that the Senate is suddenly a functional, finely tuned machine, but I continue to think this hype is misplaced. Lynch's nomination was delayed for months, for no good reason. This process was an embarrassment, resolved not when mature leaders decided to be responsible, but rather when the parties reached a compromise on paying a Republican ransom.
Lynch's successful confirmation is a resolution to an ugly fight that never should have happened, not evidence of a legislative body working as it should.
Postscript: Congratulations are in order, of course, for outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who can now finally leave the job he's been trying to give up for months.