Why are Republicans in the US Senate holding up the appointment of nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch? If confirmed, she will become the first African American woman to hold the position of Attorney General and first to hold a cabinet level position in the Obama Administration.
What makes Lynch’s confirmation interesting is that she’s had a stellar career. Yet her confirmation has been held up longer than any Attorney General in 30 years. A glaring and stark comparison to her appointment, is that of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter who was nominated on December 5, 2014 and approved unanimously February 1, 2015.
Observers question, is this is about race? Lynch was nominated by President Barack Obama on November 8, 2014 and confirmed out of committee, 12-8 on February 26, 2015. Yet, she waits for the full Senate body to confirm her appointment.
The confirmation has gone from a “process of confirmation to a trial by ordeal that has moved from ridiculous to absurd,” Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said yesterday on an hour long press call about Lynch in which he was joined by Congressional members, the head of a civil rights legal defense group and sorority president.
It is difficult to argue the absurdity of the confirmation considering that Carter who is White was nominated after Lynch and confirmed as she waits for appointment. Adding to the drama is that nothing in the confirmation hearing questioned or challenged her qualifications or her character.
“The CBC is disturbed that this confirmation has taken four months…..the votes are there today to have her confirmed. If she was put forward for confirmation today, she would be confirmed by tonight,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC) said.
So, is this about race or something else? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says her confirmation vote will occur after the Senate votes on a human trafficking bill. While Senators Jeff Sessions (AL), John Cornyn (TX) and Ted Cruz (TX) have said the President’s action on immigration and Lynch’s defense of his actions are why they oppose her appointment. Either way, her confirmation hearing has now come and gone. While Secretary Carter has been nominated and confirmed during a shorter timeframe.
“Rather than focus on race, we should ask, what are women and African Americans perceiving when they watch this? For those who watched a woman who is an African American woman control the room during her confirmation hearing, also saw her move even the opposition party with her story. When women all over the country see a woman, move toward getting this job and then see it held up despite her qualifications, what does that say to women?” Sherilynn Ifel, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund stated.
Loretta Elizabeth Lynch, born in Greensboro North Carolina is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She has been confirmed for the position twice by the Senate, holding the position now twice, first from 1999-2001 and now since 2010. With leaders around the country calling for the Senate to vote up or down for her appointment, despite her stellar record, there is speculation two Senators from Lynch’s home state may vote against her confirmation. One saying before the process began, he would not vote for her.
When the vote happens, some on the call said, it could be one of the closest ever for Attorney General. Some analysts speculate, that Vice President Joe Biden may provide the deciding vote.
Potential Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed in this week on Twitter, “Congressional trifecta against women today, 1)Blocking a great nominee, 1st African American woman AG, for longer than any other AG in 30 years 2) Playing politics with trafficking victims 3) Threatening women’s health and rights.”
Dr. Paulette C. Walker, National President of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., for which Lynch is a member said, “Call upon the Senate to confirm. The Senate needs to do what it is elected to do and confirm Loretta Lynch. She has committed her life to make the lives of all Americans better.”
If this is about race or even opposition to the President, the Senate’s disparity in confirming the two nominees, may show that control of the Senate is harder than it was in the minority. The Republican Senate appears more fractured than what we see on the surface.
Is McConnell holding up the nomination because he is having the same issues Congressman John Boehner experienced with Tea Party members in the House of Representatives? Either way, holding up the nomination of Lynch, a qualified candidate, may further distance and hurt GOP relations not only with important voting communities of African Americans or Hispanics around immigration. It may also distance itself with women.
Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow @atibamadyun or like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.