WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday said it was “crazy” and “embarrassing” the way the Republican-led Senate has held up confirmation of his attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “hopeful” that the obstacle to bringing Lynch to the Senate floor would be addressed next week, clearing the way for her confirmation vote.
But an aide to Minority Leader Harry Reid said no deal was yet in hand and echoed Obama’s call for Republicans to bring her to a vote without condition.
“What are we doing here?” Obama said. “I have to say there are times when the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far. This is an example of it. It’s gone too far. Enough. Enough.
“Call Loretta Lynch for a vote,” he said emphatically. “Get her confirmed.”
Lynch is the U.S. attorney for New York’s Eastern District and would succeed Attorney General Eric Holder if confirmed. She would become the first black woman to serve as the nation’s top law officer.
Dozens of Senate Republicans have opposed her for various reasons, chiefly her support of Obama’s immigration policies.
But her vote has been put off because McConnell has first wanted a Senate vote on a bipartisan sexual trafficking bill that has been held up over a dispute about abortion. McConnell on Wednesday said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has adjusted the language to mirror that contained in bipartisan Medicare legislation that the Senate approved Tuesday.
“This is a solution in search of a problem,” McConnell said in an interview Friday. “I have made it clear for seemingly well over a month that she’d be considered right after we consider trafficking, and I’m hopeful that that will occur next week and then we’ll move on to consider the nominee.”
Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said Democrats do not believe Lynch’s nomination should be linked to the trafficking bill and want it to be voted on immediately.
“On trafficking, it is true that Republicans have moved much farther in our direction in the last 24 hours than they have in the past five weeks,” Jentleson said. “But there are still significant issues to overcome and no deal is in hand.”
The president spoke at a news conference alongside visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Asked about Lynch’s nomination, Obama praised “some outbreaks of bipartisanship and common sense” in Congress recently on issues such as fixing a longstanding problem with Medicare payments to doctors.
“Yet what we still have is this crazy situation where a woman everybody agrees is qualified … has been now sitting there longer than the previous seven attorney general nominees combined,” Obama said. He said there was no reason for the delay other than “political gamesmanship in the Senate” on issues unrelated to Lynch.
“This is embarrassing, a process like this,” Obama said.