It’s taken five months for Loretta Lynch to be confirmed as the next United States attorney general, “longer than any other attorney general in recent history.”
That statement came from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal who, perhaps because of his own experience as Connecticut’s attorney general, has been and continues to be outspoken on the issue. This week, he sent an email to constituents asking them to urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to move Lynch’s confirmation along.
When asked what damage might be done to the U.S. Department of Justice by the absence of a confirmed attorney general, Blumenthal said “the nation needs an attorney general to fight drug trafficking, organized crime, exploitation, and all the evils that the Department of Justice combats day in and day out.”
“I have not talked in detail to lawyers in the Department of Justice, but our Republican colleagues are blocking vitally needed leadership for civil and criminal enforcement,” Blumenthal said during a short interview. “She is preeminently qualified. We’re missing a tremendous opportunity because of intransigence.”
President Barack Obama nominated Lynch on Nov. 8, 2014, more than 150 days ago. While some Republicans, among them Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have argued against Lynch because of her positions supporting some of Obama’s executive orders on immigration, the nomination has not even been brought to a vote.
Lynch’s nomination has been tied by Senate Republicans to a sex-trafficking bill that includes language from the Hyde Amendment barring use of federal funds to pay for abortions. That bill, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, H.R. 181, had bipartisan support, but Democrats are now blocking a vote which, in turn, prevents a vote on Lynch’s nomination.
When only 129 days had passed since Lynch’s nomination, Blumenthal took to the Senate floor to decry the delay.
“If my colleagues really want to end sex exploitation and human trafficking, they should confirm the chief law enforcement official who is responsible for fighting it,” he said. “They should confirm the nominee who has indicated an anathema to this kind of abuse, who has shown her determination to fight it and to use all of the laws and potentially this new law in the war against human trafficking.”
Current Attorney General Eric Holder will remain in the position, ostensibly until Lynch, or someone else, is confirmed. But Blumenthal said the delay undermines public confidence in the system.
“Holding the Lynch nomination hostage — that’s what’s happening here — is a disservice to the Department of Justice but even more so to our system of justice,” he said on the Senate floor. “It undermines integrity and trust in the nonpolitical nature of justice in this nation. And it does so at a time when vigorous and effective leadership is more important and necessary than ever.”
It should be noted that between Nov. 8, when Lynch was nominated, and January, when Republicans took control of the Senate, then-majority Democrats did have the opportunity to bring her nomination up for a vote.
At the time, in November 2014, Connecticut’s Sen. Christopher Murphy said on CNN that he thought the nomination should move quickly.
“I would like to see us move forward,” Murphy said. “I think this is an important post and I think we should have somebody on the ground sooner than later.”
Jordan Fenster is an award-winning freelance journalist. He lives with his family in Fairfield County. He can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.
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