After the longest delay for the confirmation of an attorney general since Ronald Reagan was president, the Senate finally voted Thursday and confirmed Loretta E. Lynch as the attorney general. She is the first black woman to hold the position. Lynch is the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She was confirmed 56 to 43, with 10 Republicans voting against her.
The delay happened for a laundry list of reasons. Though The New York Times said Republicans wanted to replace Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and thought Lynch was qualified for the position, they opposed her because she defended President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. The most substantial change he made protected 4.3 million undocumented immigrants from deportation if they met a specific set of conditions, according to Vox.
The separate and more annoying delay happened because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said he wouldn't vote to confirm Lynch until the Senate successfully passed the Justice For Victims of Trafficking Act, an anti-sex trafficking bill that proposed financial support for survivors, according to CNN. Debate over the act surrounded abortion language that Democrats say was sneakily injected by Republicans. The language would have expanded the Hyde amendment, which stops government funds from being used for abortions, to financial support given to sex-trafficking survivors. Thankfully, the Senate reached a sort-of compromise and passed the bill Wednesday on a 99-0 vote, according to the Times.
The delay is even more unfortunate and ironic because of Lynch's work in the Eastern District of New York. Lynch's office helps track down sex traffickers and imprison them, breaks up prostitution rings, rescues underage victims who were forced into rings, and helps reunite mothers trapped in prostitution with children they've lost, according to The Guardian.
Despite the fact that some conservative groups called on Senate Republicans to block a vote on her confirmation because of immigration issues, many Senate Republicans, including McConnell, voted for her. According to the Times, some of them feared the party would face political repercussions and critique if it blocked a black woman from taking the position, especially given her credentials and support from many within law enforcement. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, told the Times:
I can only hope that Senate Republicans will show her more respect as the attorney general of the United States than they did as a nominee. She has earned this respect. Her story is one of perseverance, of grace and grit.
But, of course, not every Republican has gracefully accepted defeat and respectfully congratulated Lynch on her position. According to the Times, Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate called Lynch "lawless."
“The Republican majority if it so chose could defeat this confirmation,” Cruz said, according to the Times.
Thank goodness Cruz's opinion wasn't popular among Senate Republicans or Democrats. Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, called the Republican opposition "beyond depressing" and "disgusting," and Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, from New Hampshire also spoke up and praised Lynch in a prepared statement, according to the Times:
Ms. Lynch is a well-respected U.S. attorney with a proven record and significant experience handling difficult cases. After meeting with her and reviewing her qualifications, I believe she is clearly qualified and has the necessary experience to serve as attorney general.
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