Vulnerable Republicans vote for Lynch
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans in danger of losing their seats in 2016 mostly split with their party to back Loretta Lynch as the next attorney general.

Four of the chamber’s most vulnerable GOP incumbents — Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) — voted to confirm Lynch, who faced a long delay in being confirmed as the first African-American female to head the Justice Department. Ten Republicans in total joined Democrats in supporting her nomination.


Two other at-risk Republicans, Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Richard Burr (N.C.), opposed Lynch, whose nomination was held up more than 160 days because of an unrelated dispute over abortion restrictions in a bill to curb human trafficking.

Republicans are largely on defense this cycle, defending 24 seats to Democrats’ 10, coming off a year in which they won control of the Senate. But that majority is already in danger next year, with many of those members up for election in swing states which trend Democratic in presidential years.

All four of the Republicans who voted to confirm Lynch are from those states. The vote gives them an opportunity to tout their bipartisanship and reach out to African-American voters.

Conversely, Democrats likely will use the "no" votes from Toomey and Burr against them.

Ayotte, who was New Hampshire’s first female state attorney general, called Lynch a “clearly qualified nominee” and “a well-respected U.S. attorney with a proven record and significant experience handling difficult cases.”

Portman slammed outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, a favorite target of Republicans, and went on to call Lynch someone whose “long career as a federal prosecutor would bring a different, and less politicized, perspective to the job.”

Toomey defended his vote against confirming Lynch, saying he did not believe she could "carry out the duty of attorney general to uphold the Constitution."

This post was updated at 3:36 p.m.