White House slams hurdle on attorney general vote

Josh Lederman
Associated Press

Washington – — The White House blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday for holding up confirmation of President Barack Obama’s pick for attorney general, arguing the “unconscionable delay” was a stain on the Kentucky Republican’s leadership.

McConnell warned over the weekend that he wouldn’t hold a vote on Loretta Lynch’s confirmation before the Senate finishes a human trafficking bill that has hit a roadblock over a provision regarding funding for abortions. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the delay on the attorney general post reflected “inept leadership,” not a flaw in the trafficking bill.

“You’ve got to hand it to Republicans, that they’ve taken even a measure as common sense as that and turned it into a partisan controversy,” Earnest said. “That is not a reflection of a flaw in the bill. It’s a reflection of inept leadership.”

He suggested it was questionable whether Obama could trust McConnell and his fellow GOP leaders and “whether their word is good with the president.”

McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, retorted that “It wasn’t Republicans who ‘turned it into a partisan controversy.’ … It was only when the president’s party decided to filibuster a bill they support that it became controversial.”

McConnell put Lynch’s confirmation vote planned for this week on hold after Senate debate on the trafficking bill broke down. Democrats made a late objection to a provision that prohibits money dedicated to a fund for victims from being used to pay for abortions except in very limited circumstances. Similar abortion funding restrictions have been in place for decades, but abortion-rights supporters said the legislation goes further.

A test vote is set for Tuesday on the trafficking bill, and looks certain to fall short of the 60 votes needed. Aides in both parties suggested that the vote could set the stage for some kind of deal to be reached. It’s not clear whether that could happen quickly enough to allow for a vote on Lynch this week.