Editorials

Senate finally ready to vote on Lynch

Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch appears on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senate leaders announced a deal Tuesday that should clear the way for the long-stalled vote on her confirmation.
Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch appears on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senate leaders announced a deal Tuesday that should clear the way for the long-stalled vote on her confirmation. AP

Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general, finally will get a confirmation vote in the Republican-led Senate. Sadly, it’s a vote that should have occurred months ago.

Even many Republican senators concede that Lynch, sitting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., is highly qualified for the job. The Senate already has twice confirmed her as U.S. attorney with support from GOP senators.

Unfortunately, her confirmation has been held up because of a combination of partisan rancor at Obama and the unwillingness of members of both parties to find a way to break the logjam. Finally, however, it appears that a compromise will allow the vote to occur.

The bill, oddly enough, that has stalled the vote on Lynch is one that would that would combat human trafficking, a bill that would seem to have universal support. But Republican senators surreptitiously included an amendment in the bill that would invoke the so-called Hyde Amendment, which restricts government spending on abortion.

That angered Democrats, who then decided to filibuster the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then declared that until the filibuster was lifted and the bill was passed, no action would be taken on the Lynch nomination.

This is a perfect illustration of Congress’ inability to deal with even the most basic and essential business in a reasonable fashion. The nominee for U.S. attorney general has been in political limbo for more than six months, which is unconscionable.

One could argue that Democratic intransigence regarding the Hyde Amendment is at least part of the reason for the delay, which is valid. But why did Republicans insert the amendment in the bill and why has Lynch’s confirmation been contingent on passing this particular bill?

This week a bipartisan group of senators negotiated a pathway to rationality. Two funding sources would be created for the bill. The first would come from fines collected on sex traffickers and would be used to help trafficking victims, but not for health care.

The second source would come from Community Health Center funds, which already are subject to the Hyde provision. That, Democrats say, ensures that Hyde is not expanded to cover non-taxpayer dollars or to new programs.

We wonder why a similar deal couldn’t have been struck months ago. No one really was benefiting politically from the delay.

Republicans had placed themselves in an ironic position. As long as Lynch remained in limbo, Attorney General Eric Holder – who is anathema to many Republicans – would remain in office.

If confirmed, Lynch would serve only until the end of Obama’s final term in office. But at least she would have the historical distinction of being the first African-American woman to become attorney general.

We wish we could be more encouraged by this bipartisan effort to move legislation forward and vote on Lynch’s confirmation. Unfortunately, it comes too late and too grudgingly to raise much hope that it is a lasting trend.

In summary

Bipartisan negotiations in the U.S. Senate created a way to break the logjam on Loretta Lynch’s confirmation vote, but it comes six months after her nomination.

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