Loretta Lynch, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney, confirmed as next U.S. Attorney General
Lynch will be the Country’s First African-American Female AG
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Loretta Lynch has been confirmed as the next U.S. attorney general after gaining a simple majority vote in the Senate Thursday afternoon. Five months after she was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as attorney general, the Senate voted 56-43 to confirm her nomination.
“I congratulate Loretta Lynch on her historic confirmation as attorney general of the United States,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who worked with Lynch as a federal prosecutor. “As the first-ever African American woman to serve as attorney general, this is also a proud moment in our country’s history.”
While Lynch was expected to have support from all of the Democrats, support on the Republican end increased from the anticipated five votes to 10.
Now U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, she will replace Eric Holder and become the nation’s first black female attorney general.
“Today is a historic day, as Loretta Lynch will take her rightful place at the helm of DOJ,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn), who voted in favor of Lynch’s confirmation. “I am confident she will be an exemplary attorney general, and will bring disparate parts of communities across the country together, just as she did in Brooklyn.”
“Ms. Lynch will make a tremendous attorney general. Brooklyn’s loss is America’s gain,” U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) said in a released statement.
Lynch has had to wait far longer than most recent attorney general nominees to be confirmed, with the exception, as the New York Times noted, of Edwin Meese III, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, and A. Mitchell Palmer, who was picked by President Woodrow Wilson.
“Loretta is strong and fearless, and she is an ideal choice to lead the Justice Department,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York). “Not only is she making history as the first African American woman to serve in this role, she is one of our country’s most accomplished and distinguished minds serving in law enforcement.”
“She is a historic nominee, but also Senate Republicans are making history. And I would say for the wrong reasons,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont). “I can only hope that Senate Republicans will show her more respect as the attorney general of the United States than they did as a nominee. She has earned this respect. Her story is one of perseverance, of grace and grit.”
Lynch’s nomination was delayed for a variety of political reasons.
Republican leaders decided to hold off on her confirmation until an unrelated bill on human trafficking was completed, but it hit unexpected gridlock over an abortion funding provision and the dispute dragged on for six weeks.
A deal on the abortion issue was reached earlier this week, and the trafficking bill passed unanimously on Wednesday.
“I am glad Senate Republicans finally got past their personal, petty politics so that Ms. Lynch can get to work,” New York City Public Advocate Letitia James said Thursday.
Democrats had grown incensed over the long delay in confirming Lynch. Obama himself weighed in last week to lament Senate dysfunction and decry the wait as “crazy” and “embarrassing.” Democrats controlled the Senate when Lynch was nominated last November and could have brought up her nomination for a vote, but they held off with the GOP’s encouragement after they were routed in the midterm elections and spent the time confirming judges instead.
There was an expectation that Republican leaders would move Lynch’s nomination swiftly this year, especially since most GOP members of Congress loathe Holder, who’s seen as too politically close to Obama and even more liberal. But instead, the nomination became tangled in the dispute over Obama’s executive actions limiting deportations for millions of immigrants in the country illegally. Once Lynch voiced support for Obama’s moves, a number of potential Republican supporters abandoned her, seemingly stalling her nomination.
Still, when it came to voting, 10 Republicans put down a vote in favor of Lynch — Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio, 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
However, many Republicans remain steadfast in their disapproval of Lynch’s confirmation and policy stance. “We do not have to confirm someone to the highest law enforcement position in America if that someone has committed to denigrating Congress,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) said on the Senate floor Thursday.
But despite the disapproval of some, many praised Lynch, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“As the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Ms. Lynch has been a steadfast defender of justice in both civil and criminal cases; I am confident that she will continue to set the standard for excellence and integrity in public service as attorney general,” Cuomo said.
Lynch, who grew up in North Carolina, has been the top prosecutor since 2010 for a district that includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, a role she also held from 1999 to 2001. She is seen as a straight shooter and has wide law enforcement support.
As attorney general, Loretta Lynch assumes a portfolio that includes fighting terrorism, preventing cyberattacks and dealing with police and race.
Those are issues strikingly similar to what she’s dealt with as top federal prosecutor for much of New York City.
“During her career, Loretta has dealt with an impressive array of cases, on subjects ranging from civil rights to organized crime to terrorism; this experience will serve her exceptionally well in her new position,” Gillibrand noted. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio added that “as the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Eastern District, [Ms. Lynch] prosecuted some of the toughest terrorism, fraud and brutality cases we’ve ever seen and fought for fairness and against inequity at every turn.”
She will inherit a Justice Department consumed by efforts to stop the flow of ISIS recruits to Syria and prevent destructive computer crimes against American corporations. Additionally, she’ll arrive with the department at the center of a dialogue on relations between police and minority communities.
“As the first woman of color to hold this position, Ms. Lynch understands the complex challenges facing diverse communities across our nation,” James added.
Lynch is expected to be sworn in next week to replace Eric Holder following his six-year tenure that made civil rights protections a cornerstone priority.
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