After more than 165 days and partisan bickering, the Senate voted to confirm Loretta Lynch as the nation's 83rd U.S. attorney general. She was confirmed by 56 votes, including a "yea" from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
African-American lawmakers and activists have for months been urging the Senate to move forward with the final confirmation vote. Lynch, who is making history as the first African-American woman to serve in the position, also has made history as the attorney general nominee who's waited the longest in more than three decades for a final vote. The ongoing delays over unrelated immigration and sex trafficking measures ultimately led some leaders to speculate whether racism or sexism were underlying factors, particularly in light of their antipathy toward Attorney General Eric Holder, whom she would succeed.
President Obama for the most part appeared to be patient but his frustration erupted last week during a joint press conference with Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. He called the delay an "embarrassing" example of the Senate's "dysfunction."
Before the vote, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he hopes that GOP lawmakers will give Lynch more respect as attorney general than they did as a nominee.
Republicans for the most part believe that Lynch is eminently qualified to be attorney general, but disapproved of her unwillingness to challenge President Obama's constitutional authority to implement executive actions on immigration.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott before the vote applauded Lynch's "demonstrated tremendous intellect, a willingness to be a strong federal prosecutor and a proven record of commitment to public service," but said he could not support her confirmation.
"Immigration, the Affordable Care Act, and how to best protect our homeland, mattered greatly and weighed heavily on my decision," said the upper chamber's lone Black Republican in a statement. " At the end of the day, Ms. Lynch demonstrated that she will not be the independent voice that our country needs at the Department of Justice."
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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