After 166 days of GOP-led delays, protests, and unrelated political fights over immigration and human trafficking, the Senate voted Thursday to make history by confirming Loretta Lynch as the first Black female attorney general of the United States.
The Senate voted 56-43 to confirm Lynch, after voting 66-34 to break a filibuster and move to a final vote.
Ten Republicans voted to confirm Lynch, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), to the surprise of many.
McConnell had held Lynch’s confirmation hostage until the Senate resolved its differences over a human trafficking bill, which finally passed 99-0 on Wednesday after a compromise on abortion language was reached.
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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the day after he was the only senator to miss the vote on the trafficking bill, was also the only senator to miss the final vote on Lynch. Cruz, one of Lynch’s most vocal critics, voted earlier in the day to filibuster her confirmation.
Democrats and civil rights advocates have been enraged by the delay, with some alleging gender or racial discrimination on the part of Republicans.
Lynch was also the first attorney general nominee in history to have to overcome a filibuster to be confirmed.
“Lynch faced this unprecedented obstruction not because of her fitness for office, but because her nomination was inappropriately used in a proxy war against the President and his policies,” Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement.
On average, President Obama has had to wait longer than any president since Jimmy Carter to get his cabinet appointees approved.
Henderson also praised Lynch for her “indisputable qualifications, character, integrity, and tenacity in the face of obstruction,” and said that she would continue Eric Holder’s “legacy of fair and responsible leadership” at the Department of Justice.
Lynch faced an uphill confirmation battle with Senate Republicans despite wide praise for her qualifications, poise, and relatively uncontroversial background.
“Today is an historic day as Loretta Lynch will take her rightful place at the helm of DOJ,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who hails from Lynch’s home state and has long vocally endorsed her confirmation, said in a statement. “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.”