WASHINGTON, DC – The highly politicized five-month battle to choose President Barack Obama’s next attorney general came to a close Thursday when the Senate finally voted to confirm Loretta Lynch. The 56-43 vote makes Lynch the first African-American female attorney general in U.S. history.
But the delay of her nomination neared record-breaking proportions. Republicans leading the Senate refused to bring her nomination up for a vote until Democrats cut a deal on abortion language in an unrelated bill. That legislation passed Wednesday, setting up Thursday’s vote and ending the latest partisan Washington standoff.
Ten Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined Democrats. Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz was the only senator not to vote.
Obama tapped Lynch to replace Attorney General Eric Holder in November and her nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. Still, she waited longer than the seven most recent U.S. attorneys general combined for a vote on the Senate floor, after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted on first finishing work on an unrelated bill.
A two-time U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Lynch takes on the high-profile job at time when America faces a series of challenges, from dealing with strained relations and deep distrust in some cities between the police and the communities they serve, to criminal justice reform, to confronting the ongoing threat of terrorism.
Lynch has some experience with the latter: the Eastern District of New York has tried more terrorism cases since 9/11 than any other office. In announcing her nomination in November, Obama praised Lynch for successfully prosecuting the terrorists who plotted to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank and the New York City subway.
Lynch, 55, has earned a reputation as a highly qualified, but low-profile prosecutor who has a good relationship with law enforcement and a history of handling tough cases well.