I was pleased to see that President Obama has finally spoken out bluntly about the incredibly-long delay to confirm his nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. While I understand his reasons for staying outside the fray, not wanting ti impose himself in the Senate debate, at a certain point you have to act. And "a certain point" in this case is 135 days...with no end in sight. "You don't hold attorney general nominees hostage for other issues," the President said. "This is our top law enforcement office."
To be clear, the delay has had nothing to do with the qualifications of Ms. Lynch, who cleared her nomination hearings smoothly and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a bipartisan vote of 12-8. She's been widely acknowledged as being highly qualified for the cabinet post, and without any attachment of personal controversy. The problem is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to bring her name to the Senate floor for a vote.
The current issue that has kept Judge Lynch held "hostage" is that the GOP has a attached a rider about abortion to a human trafficking bill, and refuses to vote on her until that bill passes. This follows an earlier attempt by Republicans to withhold the vote by attaching an amendment against President Obama's Executive Order on illegal immigrants. Neither issue of which has anything to do with her qualifications. But the GOP can't even decide on what they want to keep blocking her over. The Senate has the right, of course, to approve nominees. But it has long been the standard of the Senate that a president of either party has the right to put together the Administration he wants, absence some sort of malfeasance by the nominee or lack of qualifications -- none of which not one person in the Senate has even hinted at.
For the sake of perspective, the delay in confirmation is longer than the time taken to confirm the last seven Attorney Generals combined. It's the longest delay to confirm an Attorney General since Edwin Meese 30 years ago, but that was because of a five-month investigation into charges of federal misconduct, which in turn required two separate hearings by the Judiciary Committee.
There's a special irony about all this delay that almost makes it humorous. Bordering on lunatic. For the past six years, Republicans have been blunt about their guttural hatred of Attorney General Eric Holder. More than almost anything (other than repealing the Affordable Care Act...), they've wanted him out of office. And six months ago -- on Sept. 25, 2014 -- they got their wish, when Mr. Holder announced his resignation. However, at the time, he said he would stay in office until his replacement was confirmed. In other words, the GOP could have had their wish and been "rid" of Mr. Holder almost half a year ago. But because of their refusal to vote on Loretta Lynch -- a person who both parties admire, and acknowledge is hugely qualified, indeed one of the most qualified nominees for Attorney General in recent years, if not ever, Republicans have created a situation for themselves whereby they have forced Eric Holder, who they hate, back on themselves. For half a year, with no end in sight.
The dicey additional issue related to all this is the one related to race, since Loretta Lynch would be the first African-American woman to be Attorney General if confirmed. When Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) brought the subject up the other week, Republicans as always complained, And Democrats themselves have been wary of making the charge outright, reticent to take focus off Judge Lynch and her high qualifications. The difficulty with this conundrum is that there is no reason to hold Loretta Lynch hostage on the basis of her qualifications. And if Republicans say it's only about trying to move the president on these other issues (which is irresponsible and shameful of them to do on its own merits, since their job here is solely to confirm or deny a nominee on that person's qualifications), those same "issues' could have been applied to Ash Carter, President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense. He was nominated long after Ms. Lynch was, and was confirmed almost two months ago. The whole process from nomination to confirmation for Mr. Carter was just two months. And during it all, there wasn't a whisper of holding up his nomination because of a vote on abortion. He sailed through.
So, maybe this has nothing about race. But Republicans must know how horrific it looks. Clearly, though, they don't care. Which speaks volumes all on its own.
When Republicans won a majority in both the Senate and House, they proudly proclaimed that they would show how smoothly they would run the Congress. Not only has their time in control been more bumpy than Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, they can't even get themselves in order to simply vote on a nominee -- and one no less who they consider well-qualified.
As the Party of No, being in the minority was a great place to be, an ideal spot for squawking. You're not in charge, you have no responsibility to lead or govern. But now they're in the majority and seemingly terrified to act, flopping around like a flounder on dry land. As the old admonition goes -- Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
We've seen for the last few years how Republicans have wanted to deny the vote to others. Who'd have thought they'd do the same to themselves in the Senate.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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