In a forceful denouncement, President Obama derided the “political gamesmanship” that he said continues to hold up the confirmation of Loretta Lynch to serve as attorney general five months after he first nominated her for the job.
Speaking at a news conference Friday with the Italian prime minister, an apparently exasperated Obama veered off into a mini-rant in which he said he can’t think of any good explanation for the delay.
“Nobody can describe a reason for it beyond political gamesmanship in the Senate,” Obama said, further blaming wrangling over issues “completely unrelated to her.”
“There are times where the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far,” the president, himself a former senator, said. “This is an example of it. It's gone too far. Enough. Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed.
“This is embarrassing,” he added, “a process like this.”
Obama nominated Lynch in November, and she went before the Senate Judiciary Committee for hearings in January. The Senate hasn’t voted on her confirmation yet, however, a delay that now stands as the longest in decades for any nominee for the top law-enforcement job in the nation.
The stalemate is also unusual in that neither side of the aisle in Congress is raising questions about her qualifications.
Instead, the nomination was caught up in philosophical debates about immigration reform and abortion.
Obama's comments came after a week in which a leading Democrat threatened to try to force a vote and the White House traded jabs over the issue with a key Republican.
In an effort to bring Lynch’s nomination to a vote, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he’d told Republicans that he could try to force a vote, apparently targeting GOP lawmakers who may be reluctant to vote against the first African American woman nominated for the position.
Tensions showed this week at the White House, too, where spokesman Josh Earnest called Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, “duplicitous” for blaming Democrats for the delay.
Grassley had demanded last fall that the confirmation process be put on hold until Republicans took over the Senate in January.
Grassley’s spokeswoman, Beth Levine, completed the circle of criticism by pointing the finger at Reid.
“If you believe the White House and Senate Democrats had Republicans’ best interests in mind when they delayed consideration of the Lynch nomination last fall, you hadn’t watched how Harry Reid ran the Senate," she said. "It was abundantly clear then, just as it is now, that Senate Democrats’ priorities didn’t include the Lynch nomination."
Standing before television cameras on Friday, Obama complained that the delay was keeping a critical agency waiting for its new leadership.
“This is the top law-enforcement job in the country,” he said. “Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Put her in place. Let her do her job.”
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