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 Ayotte (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.

{mosads}”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 Sessions (R-Ala.) said. “We don’t have to confirm anybody.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (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 Reid (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 Leahy (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 McConnell (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 Holder.

The Republican senators who voted to invoke cloture on the nomination were Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Ayotte, Richard Burr (N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), John Cornyn (Texas), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), McConnell, Rob Portman (Ohio), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), John Thune (S.D.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.). 

Tags Bob Corker Cory Gardner Eric Holder Harry Reid Jeff Flake Jeff Sessions John Cornyn John Thune Kelly Ayotte Lamar Alexander Lindsey Graham Mark Kirk Mitch McConnell Orrin Hatch Pat Roberts Patrick Leahy Richard Burr Rob Portman Ron Johnson Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Ted Cruz Thad Cochran
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