Senate Democrats are turning up the heat on Republicans for delaying a vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, implying that it's tied to her race.
Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the upper chamber, argued that the four-month delay of Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated for the post, may be related to her race. Using wording suggestive of the days of segregation, he said that Lynch had been told to "sit in the back of the bus."
Durbin said that there was “no substantive reason” for delaying Lynch’s confirmation process, which has been the longest for an Attorney General nominee in 30 years and longer than the past five nominees combined.
“This is the first African-American woman in the history of the United States to be nominated to serve as attorney general. It is a civil rights milestone,” said Durbin. “Why has the Senate Republican leadership decided to target this good woman and to stop her from serving as the first African-American attorney general of the United States of America? There is no good reason. There is no substantive reason.”
“Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar,” he added. "That is unfair, it’s unjust, it is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate. This woman deserves fairness.”
Durbin’s comments echoed those of Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said Tuesday that race “certainly can be considered a major factor” in her delay.
But Durbin’s rhetoric Wednesday is a clear escalation from those of his Democratic colleagues. White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated Tuesday that Lynch is well qualified for the post but did not remark on her race.
"Well, let me just say that if Ms. Lynch were not confirmed by the United States Senate, it would be an astonishing display of partisanship," said Earnest. "Particularly given the fact that not a single member of the United States Senate has raised a legitimate concern about her aptitude for that office."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the Lynch vote won't occur until after the Senate passes a bill that would help victims of sex trafficking, which Democrats have been filibustering recently over abortion provisions. McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said that the Lynch nomination is next on the schedule and would occur as soon as Democrats lifted their obstruction.
“The only thing holding up that vote is the Democrats’ filibuster of a bill that would help prevent kids from being sold into sex slavery,” said Stewart. “The sooner they allow the Senate to pass that bipartisan bill, the sooner the Senate can move to the Lynch nomination.”
With reporting by Maya Rhodan/Washington