The Senate on Thursday finally got around to confirming Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general. The vote ended a protracted confirmation process that had dragged on longer than that of all but two other nominees for the office, and one that had pushed existing partisan tensions on Capitol Hill to new heights.
The final vote was 56 to 43, giving Lynch six more votes than she needed and five more than she had effectively been assured of for weeks. The GOP had long struggled to justify their decision to delay Lynch’s confirmation. Their opposition to Lynch was never about her personal or professional past, but instead about President Obama and his immigration reforms. Ironically, that opposition meant that Lynch, who played no role in those executive actions, remained sidelined for months while Eric Holder, who approved the legal justification for them, remained on the job.
Her nomination was further delayed when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for unexplained reasons, made passage of an unrelated human-trafficking bill a prerequisite to her confirmation vote. That legislation was derailed by a largely unrelated fight about abortion funding, which was eventually settled earlier this week with some creative accounting. The deal cleared the way for Lynch’s nomination to finally come to the Senate floor.
In the end, 10 Republicans joined the entire Democratic caucus to push her nomination over the finish line, making her the first black woman to lead the Justice Department. Those Republicans who voted for her confirmation included the five senators who had already signaled their support before this week—Orrin Hatch, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Mark Kirk—as well as a group of five others that, most surprisingly of all, included McConnell himself.