Loretta Lynch on verge of confirmation
© Francis Rivera

Senators on Thursday moved toward confirming Loretta Lynch as the nation’s next attorney general.

In a 66 to 34 vote, senators invoked cloture on President Obama’s nominee, setting up a final vote later this afternoon.

While it is unclear how much Republican support Lynch will have, Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line Bottom line Bottom Line MORE (R-N.H.) on Thursday joined the group of Republicans supporting her.

Ayotte said that, while she continues "to have concerns with President Obama's unilateral immigration actions," she will support Lynch for attorney general.


"I have received written assurance from Ms. Lynch that she will respect both the current court injunction barring implementation of the president’s November 2014 executive action as well as whatever final decision results from the federal judicial system’s review process,” said Ayotte, who is up for reelection in 2016.

But Republicans also lined up ahead of the procedural vote to urge their colleagues to block Lynch's nomination.

"We do not have to confirm someone to the highest law enforcement position in America, if that someone has publicly committed to denigrating Congress, violating laws of Congress, violating even the wishes of Congress and the American people," Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRoy Moore sues Alabama over COVID-19 restrictions GOP set to release controversial Biden report Trump's policies on refugees are as simple as ABCs MORE (R-Ala.) said. "We don't have to confirm anybody."

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCrenshaw looms large as Democrats look to flip Texas House seat SCOTUS confirmation in the last month of a close election? Ugly The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' MORE (R-Texas), a 2016 presidential candidate, slammed the Republican leadership for allowing Lynch's nomination to come up for a vote.

"The Republican majority, if it so chose, could defeat this nomination, but the Republican majority has chosen to go forward and allow Loretta Lynch to be confirmed," Cruz said. "I would note there are a few voters back home that are asking what exactly is the difference between a Democratic and Republican majority. ... That's a question each of us will have to answer to our constituents back home."

Cruz added that he's asked Republican leaders to block Obama's executive and judicial nominees "unless and until the president rescinds his lawless amnesty."

Democrats have criticized Republicans for the delay on Lynch, who was nominated more than 160 days ago. Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Supreme Court vacancy — yet another congressional food fight Trump seeks to turn around campaign with Supreme Court fight On The Trail: Battle over Ginsburg replacement threatens to break Senate MORE (D-Nev.) said Democrats agreed to hold off on a vote on her nomination least year, because they were assured that she would quickly be taken up quickly in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court Battle over timing complicates Democratic shutdown strategy MORE (D-Vt.) said he hopes his Republican colleagues "will show her more respect as attorney general."

"She deserves our respect. She deserves our gratitude for being willing to continue to serve our nation. She's earned this respect,” he said.

He added that Thursday's vote is the first time the Senate has forced a procedural vote on an attorney general nomination.

Lynch's nomination was originally expected to be taken up last month, but got held up by a fight over an abortion provision included in a bill to curb human trafficking.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Republican lawyers brush off Trump's election comments MORE (R-Ky.) refused to take up the Lynch nomination until senators finished their work in the anti-trafficking proposal. That bill passed on Wednesday in a 99-0 vote.

Normally, nominations would face 30 hours of debate after a cloture vote, which would have likely pushed a final vote on Lynch's nomination into next week. But senators announced an agreement Wednesday to limit the debate time to two hours.

If confirmed, Lynch will replace Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on Trump: 'He'll leave' l GOP laywers brush off Trump's election remarks l Obama's endorsements Obama endorses Warnock in crowded Georgia Senate race The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's rally risk | Biden ramps up legal team | Biden hits Trump over climate policy MORE.

The Republican senators who voted to invoke cloture on the nomination were Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderPelosi urges early voting to counter GOP's high court gambit: 'There has to be a price to pay' Graham: GOP has votes to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy MORE (Tenn.), Ayotte, Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs Rep. Mark Walker says he's been contacted about Liberty University vacancy MORE (N.C.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Second GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure MORE (W.Va.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranEspy wins Mississippi Senate Democratic primary Bottom Line Mike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid MORE (Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Poll: 57 percent of Americans think next president, Senate should fill Ginsburg vacancy On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerHas Congress captured Russia policy? Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami MORE (Texas), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHow fast population growth made Arizona a swing state Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Republican former Michigan governor says he's voting for Biden MORE (Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBreaking the Chinese space addiction Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden MORE (Colo.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLincoln Project mocks Lindsey Graham's fundraising lag with Sarah McLachlan-themed video The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error MORE (S.C.), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchBottom line Bottom line Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (Utah), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose CHC leaders urge Senate to oppose Chad Wolf nomination  MORE (Wis.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkLiberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE (Ill.), McConnell, Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Romney undecided on authorizing subpoenas for GOP Obama-era probes Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery MORE (Ohio), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill GOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election MORE (Kan.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHouse to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error Senate passes resolution reaffirming commitment to peaceful transition of power MORE (S.D.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.).