With the control of the Senate, the Republicans pushed back the hearing time and again, for reasons that all seemed to point to their disdain for President Obama. Finally, as Obama, the NAACP, Democrats and others expressed their dismay at the delay—the president called it “embarrassing” last week—Lynch, by a 56-43 vote, with 10 Republicans favoring her appointment, finally takes over for Eric Holder.
“This should be a happy day for America,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri.
But it is also tempered with frustration, she said. She said Republicans opposed Ms. Lynch merely because “she agrees with the man who selected her,” a posture Ms. McCaskill called “beyond depressing—it’s disgusting.”
Lynch is the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who has been roundly applauded for her work, but her confirmation took longer than that for all but two other nominees for the office: President Ronald Reagan’s selection, Edwin Meese III, and A. Mitchell Palmer, who was picked by President Woodrow Wilson, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The longest delay to the confirmation hearing was held up by majority leader Mitch McConnell, who insisted a human trafficking bill be finalized before voting on Lynch. The bill dragged on for some time, finally passing, 99-0, on Wednesday.
McConnell was among the 10 Republicans who voted for Lynch, surprising many. Many of those who did not vote for her expressed their disdain for her, driven largely by her agreeing with Obama on immigration.
“We do not have to confirm someone to the highest law enforcement position in America if that someone has committed to denigrating Congress,” Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said on the Senate floor Thursday. “We don’t need to be apologetic about it, colleagues.”
Some conservative groups had called on Senate Republicans to block a vote on Lynch altogether because of her stance on the president’s immigration policies. Meanwhile, Black organizations like the NAACP were outspoken about the delay and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network called for a hunger strike to draw attention to the inordinate delay.
“Together, we drove 8,846 calls that led to the Senate confirming Loretta Lynch today, our first African-American female Attorney General. Thank you,” the NAACP said in a congratulatory text it sent out.
“She is a historic nominee, but also Senate Republicans are making history,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. “And I would say for the wrong reasons. . . 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.”
By contrast, Senator Ted Cruz called Lynch “lawless.”
Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who faces re-election next year, was among those in her party who voted for Ms. Lynch. “Ms. Lynch is a well-respected U.S. attorney with a proven record and significant experience handling difficult cases,” Ms. Ayotte said in a prepared statement. “After meeting with her and reviewing her qualifications, I believe she is clearly qualified and has the necessary experience to serve as Attorney General.”