Senate Abortion Fight Halts Loretta Lynch Nomination

Ron Sachs/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

WASHINGTON — After a day of filibusters and bickering, the Senate is no closer to breaking the impasse on an anti-human-trafficking bill that has hit a wall over Democratic objections to an anti-abortion provision.

And that has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insisting she won’t receive a final confirmation vote until the trafficking bill passes.

“I’ve said all along I’ve thought the president’s nominee for attorney general is entitled to be considered on the Senate floor,” he told reporters Tuesday. “And she will be considered just as soon as we finish this very important bill.”

McConnell is exploring every option to advance the trafficking bill. He offered Democrats an up-or-down vote last week to strip out the anti-abortion language, which they rejected, knowing it would fail. He threatened to delay the Lynch nomination, but Democrats didn’t bend. He brought up the bill Tuesday for a procedural vote, but Democrats filibustered it. Now he’s signaling he’ll keep holding procedural votes on the legislation “in repetition.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who mustered 43 votes to filibuster the bill on Tuesday morning, said the only way forward is for Republicans to drop the abortion language. The rest of the bill has strong bipartisan support.

“The only way to resolve this issue is to take that language out of the bill,” Reid said.

The abortion language prohibits victims of trafficking from using fees collected from perpetrators to obtain an abortion, which Democrats complain is an expansion of longstanding restrictions on government funding for abortion, since the pool of revenues that it would apply to is not taxpayer money.

Meanwhile, Democrats are apoplectic over the Lynch nomination delay, saying she has waited longer than any AG candidate in decades to get a vote.

“They still think they’re in the minority,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “Hey Republicans, you won the election. It’s time to start governing.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was steaming mad over Democrats’ filibusters, and said McConnell was justified in blocking a vote on Lynch.

“Sure, because they’re holding up a bill … about the horrible things that happen to young women. That’s disgraceful to me. It is disgraceful,” McCain told a scrum of reporters. “Loretta Lynch will be fine. The young women who are being sexually trafficked now and mistreated are not gonna be fine. It’s disgraceful what the Democrats are doing and they should be ashamed.”

If Lynch gets a vote, she appears to have the support of 50 senators — the bare minimum needed for confirmation if Vice President Joe Biden breaks the tie. That includes all 46 members of the Democratic caucus and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

McCain said he opposes Lynch and would oppose any other attorney general nominee who “supports unconstitutional actions,” taking an apparent shot at President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

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