Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers remember Bob Dole: 'Bona fide American hero' Senate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (R-Ky.) on Sunday said Loretta Lynch, President Obama's nominee to succeed Eric Holder as attorney general, will not move until Democrats cooperate on a human trafficking bill.
Democrats have threatened to veto the bipartisan trafficking measure because Republicans included a provision that would prohibit restitution funds from paying for abortions.
McConnell told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Lynch’s nomination will remain in a holding pattern until Democrats allow the trafficking bill to move forward.
“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,” he said.
He argued it was a non-controversial bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously. He noted the language Democrats are objecting to was part of the legislation from the beginning of its consideration.
“They all voted for the very same language in a bill in December,” he said. “This is boilerplate language that has been in the law for almost 40 years that they all voted for three months ago in another bill."
He said he offered Democrats an up-or-down vote to strip the language.
Some Democrats have argued they overlooked the language when they first voted for the legislation.
“If they want to have time to turn to the attorney general next week, we need to finish up this human trafficking bill. It’s extremely important to the country,” McConnell added.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, slammed McConnell for further delaying Lynch.
“For months and months, Republicans have failed to move forward with her nomination using any excuse they can, except for any credible objection to her nomination itself. It's time for Republicans to stop dragging their feet on Loretta Lynch,” he said in a statement Sunday morning.
Adam Jentleson, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) spokesman, accused McConnell of backtracking on his pledge to schedule Lynch for a vote.
"Senator McConnell should keep his word and bring Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch up for a vote this week. By continuing to stall Lynch's nomination Republicans are failing yet another basic test of their ability to govern,” he said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Lynch’s nomination with a bipartisan vote on Feb. 26, sending it to the floor. Three Republicans, Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Jeff Flake (Ari.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) voted for her.
President Obama nominated her in November.
A Democratic aide argued that deliberation of the human trafficking bill is not a valid excuse to hold up Lynch. The Senate approved four executive nominees last Thursday and will consider two more on Monday while the bill is on the floor.
Lynch’s nomination has been awaiting confirmation for 128 days, longer than the past five attorneys general. Holder, by comparison, had to wait only 64 days before receiving Senate confirmation.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund criticized McConnell for downplaying the abortion provision tucked in the human trafficking bill.
“What McConnell calls ‘boilerplate’ is policy that disproportionately harms low income women and women of color. Not only would the trafficking bill apply that harmful provision to women who have been victims of trafficking, but it would go even farther in restricting new funding,” said Cecile Richards, the group’s president.
--This report was updated at 3:14 p.m.