Loretta Lynch Confirmed by Senate (Updated) (Video)

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)
Posted April 23, 2015 at 12:12pm

Updated 2:29 p.m. | Get ready to start calling her “Attorney General Loretta Lynch.” The Senate voted to confirm the first African-American woman attorney general Thursday afternoon, but the scars from the long, tortured confirmation process will linger far longer. The Senate voted 56-43 to confirm the nomination Thursday afternoon, a couple of hours after voting 66-34 to end a filibuster.  

It’s the most votes ever against a successful attorney general nominee .  

The only senator not to vote was Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.  

Ten Republicans voted to confirm her nomination, including Republicans facing voters in blue states in 2016: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio.  

Notably Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, one of the more vulnerable Republicans, voted to filibuster her.  

He earlier sent out a fundraising email highlighting his opposition.  

“Due to concerns about whether she would uphold the rule of law and defend the Constitution in the face of President Obama’s executive actions, she will not be receiving my support. …If you stand with me in opposition to her nomination, click here to chip-in $15, $25, or even $50 right now and help us make it clear to President Obama: we stand against your AG nominee!”  

Other Republicans voting to confirm Lynch included Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine,  Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.  

Other Republicans who voted to end a filibuster of Lynch but ultimately voted against her confirmation included Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, John Thune of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.  

The rest all voted to filibuster her nomination, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and declared GOP presidential candidates Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. (Graham is still considering a run.)  

Her confirmation has long been in the making, with Lynch enduring months as a political punching bag for the GOP — first as collateral damage from President Barack Obama’s announcement of his immigration executive actions and later as a bargaining chip in an unrelated debate over anti-abortion provisions in a human-trafficking bill.  

The relative closeness of the final vote reflects little on Lynch’s personal qualifications — the career prosecutor has a gold-plated résumé and had been easily confirmed by the Senate as a U.S. attorney in New York. But disputes over policy bedeviled her nomination from the outset, with Republicans upset at her endorsement of the president’s executive actions, which many of them consider to be unconstitutional.  

“[It] doesn’t get any uglier than this,” railed Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., shortly before the vote. McCaskill, a former prosecutor herself, said the new precedent being set by Republican opponents is not that someone be qualified for the job, but that they disagree with the president who has nominated them.  

“It is beyond depressing. It’s disgusting,” she said. “She is a prosecutor’s prosecutor. She’s prosecuted more terrorists than almost anyone on the planet.”  

McCaskill said Republicans were practicing base politics aimed at appealing to “the cheap seats.”  

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Lynch has had to wait longer than any other attorney general nominee, and the Senate was making history for all the wrong reasons.  

But many Republicans had for months declared their opposition as a matter of principle — they could not support someone who in their eyes would be unwilling to push back against the president when he was violating the Constitution.  

It’s unclear yet exactly what the political fallout might be for the GOP, which has sought to reach out to Hispanics, African-Americans and women.  

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus had raised the issue of race in her delay, and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., earlier caused a stir when he accused the GOP of forcing Lynch to “sit in the back of the bus.”  

Lynch herself will take over a department with less than two years left in Obama’s term and a full plate of issues to deal with — from terrorism and immigration to Obama’s late push to overhaul criminal sentencing and rethink the war on drugs.  

Anne Kim contributed to this report.

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