WH: Lynch delay 'unconscionable'

It is "unconscionable" that attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch has not yet received a confirmation vote in the Senate, the White House said Monday.

ADVERTISEMENT
"It's an unconscionable delay," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who noted President Obama nominated Lynch 128 days ago. 

Earnest said there are no legitimate questions about Lynch's qualification for the post, citing her track record as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. He accused Senate Republicans of "playing politics" with the confirmation vote. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Ky.) will be "hard-pressed to make the case" he lived up to the promise of assuring Lynch would receive a fair confirmation process, Earnest said.

McConnell on Sunday said he would delay action on Lynch's nomination until Democrats agree to cooperate on legislation intended to combat human trafficking.

“This will have an impact on the timing of considering the new attorney general. Now, I had hoped to turn to her next week, but if we can’t finish the trafficking bill, she will be put off again,” McConnell said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Democrats blocked the bill last week over a provision that would prohibit the use of federal funding for abortions.

McConnell said the trafficking bill has "boilerplate language" that was in an identical bill that Democrats voted for three months ago.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) ripped McConnell for the delay, comparing the move to hostage-taking.

"Any attempt to hold a confirmation vote hostage because of this abortion provision is a sham," Reid said from the Senate floor. "A vote on the Lynch nomination has absolutely nothing to do with the trafficking bill."

Lynch's nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee late last month in a 12-8 vote, putting her on track to be confirmed as Eric Holder’s replacement. Three Republicans on the panel voted for her: Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.).

With unanimous support from Democrats, Lynch would need the backing of four Republicans to become just the second attorney general of Obama’s tenure and the first African American woman to ever hold the position.

Still, it remains unclear where the decisive 60th vote for the nominee will come from.

Some Republicans have expressed misgivings about voting for Lynch, fearing she won’t show enough independence from the White House. They have also criticized her for backing Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which would defer deportations for millions of people.

Earnest said "there is no Plan B" if Lynch's nomination is defeated.

"This is a career prosecutor who deserves strong bipartisan support," he said. "And she should get it." 

Holder will continue to serve as attorney general as long as necessary until Lynch is confirmed, Earnest said.

"We have a very aggressive, very capable attorney general in Eric Holder, who remains in that office," Earnest said. Holder is "using every authority that he has in that office to do the right thing for the country."

House Republicans held Holder in contempt of in 2012 for not complying with a congressional subpoena for more information over the botched Fast and Furious gun-walking operation. 

Jordain Carney contributed.

— Last updated at 4 p.m.