Dysfunction in Congress has reached a new low, President Barack Obama said Friday, as he condemned Senate Republicans for their five-month delay in confirming his attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch. The Republican-controlled Senate failed to reach an agreement on an anti-human tracking bill that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says is holding up a vote on Lynch’s confirmation. But Obama said he was convinced the vote delay was nothing more than “political gamesmanship” by GOP members.
“What are we doing here?” an angry Obama said Friday during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “I have to say, there are times where the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far. This is an example of it. It’s gone too far. Enough. Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. … This is embarrassing, a process like this.”
Despite Lynch's having enough support on both sides of the aisle if a vote were held, the Senate adjourned Friday until next week without a vote on the trafficking bill. Senators were no closer to confirming Lynch Thursday, after Democrats rejected the Republicans’ latest proposal for an anti-abortion provision in a human trafficking bill. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., threatened Thursday to use parliamentary procedures to force a vote on the Lynch's confirmation.
Lynch, 55, was nominated by Obama in November to replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who is remaining on the job until the Senate confirms his replacement. Currently the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, Lynch would be the first African-American woman to head the Department of Justice as the nation’s top law enforcement official.
Many Democrats, including Obama on Friday, say the Republicans are obstructing Lynch's nomination as a proxy for attacking the president. Earlier this week, some civil rights leaders began a hunger strike to demand a confirmation vote. And last month, some African-American members of Congress alleged racism was behind the extraordinary delay.
“[She has] been sitting there for longer than the previous seven attorney general nominees combined,” Obama said on Friday. “And there’s no reason for it. Nobody can describe a reason for it beyond political gamesmanship in the Senate, on an issue that is completely unrelated to her.”