Obama calls Senate inaction on attorney general 'embarrassing'

Obama calls Senate inaction on attorney general 'embarrassing'
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President Obama on Friday vented his frustration over the delay in confirming his attorney general pick Loretta Lynch, calling the Senate’s handling of her nomination “embarrassing.”

In his strongest comments to date on the delay, Obama chided the Senate for engaging in “political gamesmanship” by not bringing Lynch’s nomination up for a vote.

“It’s gone too far,” Obama said during a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “Enough. Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote.”


Lynch, a veteran federal prosecutor, is poised to become the first black female attorney general in U.S. history. But she has waited 160 days to be confirmed, longer than the previous seven attorney general nominees combined.

The president appeared infuriated over the delay, describing it as a “crazy situation” and asking “what are we doing here?”

Lynch has the support of the Senate Democratic caucus and five GOP senators, enough to secure confirmation, but her vote has been sidetracked due to an unrelated human-trafficking bill that is stalled in the Senate. 

Republicans have refused to vote on Lynch until the legislation is passed. But Democrats have objected to the trafficking legislation due to controversial abortion language in the measure. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office said Friday it is hopeful the trafficking bill will soon pass, clearing the way for a vote on Lynch. 

“The leader has already announced that the Lynch nomination will get a vote,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in an email. “Members are continuing to work to find a way to overcome the Democrats’ filibuster of a bipartisan bill that will help prevent women and children from being sold into sex slavery. Once that bill’s complete, the Lynch nomination is next.”

But Democrats have grown impatient. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday threatened to force a vote on Lynch’s nomination. A civil rights group led by the Rev. Al Sharpton is participating in a hunger strike to protest the delay. 

Obama noted the Senate recently acted in a bipartisan fashion to pass a major Medicare reform bill, and expressed exasperation that it could not do the same for Lynch. 

Many Republican senators have opposed Lynch in order to protest President Obama’s immigration policies. But the president noted few, if any, senators have disputed Lynch’s qualifications for the post.  

“There is no reason for it,” Obama said of the delay. “Nobody can describe a reason for it beyond political gamesmanship in the Senate.”

This story was updated at 2:07 p.m.