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For Lynch, Next Week Just Might Be the Week

Lynch appears to have a narrow majority backing her nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Lynch appears to have a narrow majority backing her nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At the end of a week that saw bipartisanship break out all around the Senate, Loretta Lynch remained in limbo.  

The Thursday afternoon announcement there would be no further Senate votes for the week guaranteed that the Brooklyn-based U.S. attorney, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be attorney general, would enter another week awaiting Senate confirmation. The contrast was on the president’s mind Friday.  

“And I have to say that 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,” Obama said at a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job. This is embarrassing, a process like this.”  

Before shutting down Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed renewed optimism bipartisan negotiators would be able to finalize a deal soon on abortion provisions in an anti-trafficking bill the Kentucky Republican has declared must advance before he’ll call up the Lynch nomination (though she appears to already have the votes for confirmation locked up).  

“It is my hope that we will be able to go through an orderly amendment process and pass the trafficking bill early next week,” McConnell said. “The Senate would then consider the Lynch nomination through the regular order, as I have already committed to doing, followed by consideration of the Iran bill as reported unanimously by the Foreign Relations Committee.”  

The sparring over Lynch picked up Thursday, with Minority Leader Harry Reid telling MSNBC he’ll find a method of getting Lynch to the floor, despite the GOP majority.  

“We’re going to have a vote on her very soon that’s created by Mitch McConnell, or I’ll create one. I can still do that,” Reid said. “I know parliamentary procedure around here.”  

Reid is the most skilled tactician in the Democratic caucus, and if the Nevada Democrat is recognized on the floor under the correct circumstances, he could force a vote on turning to executive session, an exercise putting vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2016 on the spot.  

“I had a conversation today with a number of Republicans and told them, really to get her done or I will make sure they have an opportunity to vote against her,” Reid said.  

But even if that happened, Republicans who support Lynch’s confirmation would be loath to go along with a parliamentary gambit undermining McConnell’s authority to set the agenda. Sen. Jeff Flake’s office, for instance, told CQ Roll Call the Arizona Republican would have no part in such a move.  

If and when the Senate resolves the dispute over the anti-trafficking bill, floor debate on Lynch’s nomination might be particularly politically charged (even if the ultimate outcome is pre-ordained). Republicans have criticized Lynch for supporting Obama’s executive actions on immigration and levied other complaints.  

Take Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, for instance. He recently launched a campaign against Lynch citing her declining to commit to investigate the use of private email by 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton during her tenure at the State Department.  

“Hillary Clinton’s decision to destroy public records is a huge problem, and failure to investigate these practices sets a dangerous precedent for the Administration moving forward,” Vitter said in a statement. “Loretta Lynch’s response gives me no confidence that she will hold the Administration accountable for these sorts of cover-ups.”  

In a letter to Vitter, Lynch said as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, she wasn’t in a position to weigh in on the particulars of the situation with Clinton’s email server.  

“As I testified at my confirmation hearing, if I am confirmed as Attorney General, the Constitution and the laws of the United States will be my guide in exercising the powers and responsibilities of that office, and I will fulfill those responsibilities with integrity and independence,” Lynch wrote.  

As McConnell said Thursday, the bipartisan legislation from the Foreign Relations Committee to provide congressional review of any Iran nuclear deal is next in the queue for floor action. Considering Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., shepherded a unanimous committee vote, there’s a chance an Iran debate could set up a marked contrast to the recent contentious tenor of floor activity.  

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress 

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