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President Obama Tells Senate Leaders To Stop 'Playing Politics' Over Trafficking Bill, Confirm AG Nominee

President Obama Tells Senate Leaders To Stop 'Playing Politics' Over Trafficking Bill, Confirm AG Nominee

March 23, 2015 — In his weekly address on Saturday, President Obama urged Congress to "stop playing politics with law enforcement and national security" and hold a confirmation vote on U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, which conservative lawmakers have said they will not do until they pass a trafficking bill mired in a dispute over an antiabortion-rights provision, the Washington Post's "Post Politics" reports (Itkowitz, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 3/21).

Background

Obama nominated Lynch, a career prosecutor who is currently a U.S. attorney in New York, in November, and she has already had a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee (Flores, CBS News, 3/21). However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that the full Senate will not hold a confirmation vote until the chamber passes the human trafficking bill, which stalled amid a dispute over antiabortion-rights language that is included in the legislation.

Supporters of abortion rights who object to the language said it would expand existing restrictions on abortion funding by permanently applying the Hyde Amendment to a human trafficking survivors' compensation fund, which is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders.

Meanwhile, lawmakers who oppose abortion rights have so far refused to remove the language from the bill. Several procedural votes to advance the bill failed last week (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/20). Democrats have said that Lynch deserves a confirmation vote regardless of the trafficking bill impasse (Jackson, USA Today, 3/21).

Obama Address

In his address, Obama noted that Lynch has waited for a confirmation vote "longer than the seven previous attorneys general combined." He added that she has support from senators of both parties and that "[n]o one can claim she's unqualified." The delay "is purely about politics," the president said. Conservative lawmakers initially delayed Lynch's confirmation because of opposition to Obama's executive actions on immigration, and "[n]ow they're denying her a vote until they can figure out how to pass a bill on a completely unrelated issue," he said (CBS News, 3/21).

Timeline

Senators this week are expected to focus on the budget, and then they will recess for two weeks ("Post Politics," Washington Post, 3/21). Without a vote soon, Lynch's confirmation could languish until mid-April, according to USA Today (USA Today, 3/21).