African-American leaders within and outside Congress called Tuesday for the Senate Republican leadership to immediately schedule a vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, or else risk the appearance that their opposition and delays are motivated by Lynch’s race and their disdain for President Barack Obama. If confirmed by the Republican-controlled chamber, Lynch would be the first African-American woman in the position, succeeding the first black attorney general, Eric Holder. Four months after Lynch’s nomination was announced by Obama, the leaders complained that she has waited longer for a confirmation vote than any other nominee in recent memory.
“The votes are there today to get her confirmed,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “She would be the attorney general by the time the sun sets this afternoon. I can tell you the CBC is disturbed, and that’s putting it lightly.”
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said a vote on Lynch would have to wait until after the chamber considers human trafficking legislation. But Senate Democrats stalled progress Tuesday on the measure because it contained a GOP-backed abortion provision. Members of Congress have said McConnell’s reasons for delaying the vote on Lynch are not based on any objections to her qualifications.
“The actions of Mitch McConnell are petty and mean-spirited,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, a former chairwoman of CBC. “This is a pattern. The level of animosity has continued to rise every year that [Obama] has been president. There is some racial bias in their actions.”
The remarks from black legislators came during a conference call with several African-American leaders, including Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Paulette Walker, national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Lynch is a member of that organization. “When an African-American woman of this stature who appears fully prepared is delayed, we should recognize that women are watching, that African-American women are watching and civil rights leaders are watching,” Ifill said.
Lynch supporters from her native North Carolina were lobbying on Capitol Hill Tuesday to persuade their two Republican U.S. senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, to change their minds about opposing Lynch. Democrats in the North Carolina delegation also said her nomination should not be held up by issues like abortion that were not germane to her record as the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York.