Activists: Vote now to confirm Lynch as US attorney general
U.S. Senate leaders should immediately call for a vote to confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general, national civil rights activists urged Saturday.
The National Action Network, the NAACP, the National Urban League and other groups announced their campaign in New York, with the Rev. Al Sharpton saying they’ll go to the Washington offices of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell every day until he calls a vote.
“We’re not asking for favors; we’re not asking for backroom deals. Call the vote,” Sharpton said, prompting a chant of “Call the vote” from a crowd gathered for the National Action Network convention.
Lynch appears to have a narrow majority in her quest to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder and become the first black woman to hold the job. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has said sex trafficking legislation must be cleared before the confirmation vote can be held.
Sharpton cited the recent fatal shooting in South Carolina — in which Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was shot in the back by a white officer during a traffic stop — as an example of the urgent need to confirm Lynch’s nomination. He said it was “an insult to the American public” that McConnell would delay the proceedings in light of the shooting.
“A prosecutor can decide what to pursue and what not to pursue,” said Sharpton. “It is with a sense of urgency out of Charleston that we call on today Mitch McConnell the head of Senate to give America a fair prosecutor to look at these cases.”
Earlier this month, Republican U.S. Mark Kirk of Illinois signaled that he would vote to confirm Lynch, becoming the fifth GOP senator to support President Barack Obama’s choice. Their votes, combined with support from all the Democratic senators, would give Lynch the votes she requires without Vice President Joe Biden needing to break a tie.
“Loretta Lynch now has 51 publicly committed votes, which means she has all the votes to be confirmed,” said National Urban League President Marc Morial on Saturday. “So when we say, ‘call the vote,’ we know that the vote is going to be yes, in favor of Loretta Lynch.”
Back in March, in an interview with BK Live, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries said there’s “no good explanation for what’s taken place,” in reply to the delay in Lynch’s confirmation vote. The reason proffered by Senate Majority Leader McConnell, a need for a vote on a human trafficking bill, does not hold muster for Jeffries. “The Senate should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” said the congressman from Brooklyn.
“The Senate is the world’s most deliberative body, with [legislators] whom are incredibly distinguished…in their ability to deliberate. But all of the oxygen in the room is taken up by this issue…the human trafficking bill,” Jeffries added.
Initially, the delay in Lynch’s vote was blamed on a disagreement with Obama’s executive action to defer some deportations of undocumented immigrants.
“I think the attorney general nominee is suffering from the president’s actions, there’s no question about it,” McConnell said back in February, on Obama’s immigration orders, which provided a pathway to legal status for millions of undocumented Americans, enraged many senators.
Other nominees for the president’s cabinet have been approved by the Senate despite disagreements over Obama’s position on related issues. Members of the House and Senate have expressed disapproval of the president’s tactics on negotiations with Iran on that country’s nuclear weapons program. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, for example, was nominated in December 2014 and confirmed by Senate vote on February 12.
“Even though senators on the other side of the aisle have disagreements with the president’s Iranian nuclear negotiations that are taking place, a related issue, but Sec. Ash Carter’s nomination has not been held up,” Jeffries noted.
In contrast, Lynch was nominated on Nov. 8, 2014, and on Feb. 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Lynch as the next AG. The full Senate has yet to make a full vote on her nomination.
“[P]eople are asking the question: Why are you treating this highly qualified female U.S. Attorney from the Eastern District of N.Y. differently, it appears, than almost any other nominee for the Department of Justice over the last 30 years?” said Jeffries.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, applauded the speed of Carter’s confirmation, but struck back against the “needless delay” of Lynch’s.
Lynch, a Greensboro, N.C., native, has overseen bank fraud and public corruption cases in her current post as the U.S. attorney for New York’s Eastern District, which includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.
During her first tenure in the Eastern District, during the Clinton administration, Lynch helped prosecute police officers who severely beat and sexually assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
Holder, the first black attorney general, began his tenure when Obama was inaugurated. He announced in September that he planned to step aside.