From the White House podium, press secretary Josh Earnest is usually pretty circumspect in his criticisms of lawmakers. Yesterday, however, President Obama's spokesperson was far less guarded -- the Senate Republicans' handling of Loretta Lynch's Attorney General nomination, and their willingness to connect this to an unrelated human-trafficking bill, was just too much
"You've got to hand it to Republicans, that they've taken even a measure as common sense as [combating human trafficking] and turned it into a partisan controversy. "That is not a reflection of a flaw in the bill. It's a reflection of inept leadership."
Specifically on Lynch, the White House press secretary added that the A.G. nominee is being subjected to "an unconscionable delay." Reflecting on whether or not President Obama can "trust" GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, Earnest noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to bring Lynch's nomination to the floor this week, before reversing course.
"There is no question that Republicans are playing politics with the nomination of the nation's top law enforcement official, and it should come to an end," Earnest added.
For his part, McConnell told reporters yesterday that the previous Senate Democratic majority could have voted on Lynch during last year's lame-duck session, but they didn't, delaying the vote until the new Congress. McConnell "failed to point out that that delay was at his request," the president's spokesperson reminded reporters yesterday.
Senate Republicans have struggled so far to defend their posture and demands -- McConnell has said Lynch will wait indefinitely
until Democrats approve the Senate GOP version of the human-trafficking bill -- and in an unexpected twist, Senate Republicans actually ran into trouble yesterday at the hands of House Republicans
The House versions, carried by U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minnesota, did not include the abortion language. Paulsen, who is back in Minnesota during a House recess, called the Senate stalemate disappointing Thursday. Paulsen supports restricting federal funds for abortions and the morning-after pill, but said that language has no place in the Senate bill. "There is no reason it should be included in these bills. This issue is far too important to tie it up with an unrelated fight with politics as usual," he said. "To me, this is about saving lives."
In partisan disputes, Senate Dems don't usually rely on support from House Republicans, but this has turned into an odd fight, indeed. GOP senators are insisting on keeping the anti-abortion provisions they quietly snuck into the legislation, but (a) the language isn't in the House bill; and (b) it wasn't in the original Senate bill considered late last year.
In other words, it's hard for GOP senators to argue that the provision is a deal-breaking necessity.
And for Republicans to delay a vote on Loretta Lynch as part of an elaborate tantrum is that much more difficult to defend.
For more on this, don't miss Rachel's segment from last night.