Democrats to Ramp Up Push for Attorney General Vote

NYT FDScreen Shot 2015-03-16 at 11.28.41 AMCarl Hulse March 16, 2015

Good Monday morning from Washington, where Hillary Rodham Clinton is lining up her fund-raising team and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida is batting back comparisons to his brother. President Obama spent the weekend dusting off his comedy routine, but when it comes to getting his attorney general nominee confirmed, there is not much for him to laugh about. Will the logjam in Congress end this week?

Democrats say they will intensify the pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to allow a vote this week on Loretta E. Lynch for attorney general after the majority leader said he would not bring her nomination to the floor unless Democrats relent in a separate fight over a human trafficking bill.

The new developments on Ms. Lynch’s nomination were the latest twist in the bizarre saga of the human trafficking measure – a once-bipartisan piece of legislation that has not only gone off the rails, but is now ensnaring a major cabinet-level nomination. Democrats say they will not allow the trafficking measure to proceed unless Republicans drop an anti-abortion provision that Democrats say they were not aware of – even though they had weeks to review the legislation.

Mr. McConnell said last week that the Senate would not move on to any other business until it had passed the trafficking bill. On Sunday, in an appearance on CNN, he made clear that ban on other business included a confirmation vote on Ms. Lynch, currently the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Mr. McConnell sees the Lynch nomination as powerful leverage to force Democrats to back off their objections to the trafficking bill and as a rationale for moving slowly on a nomination that many Republicans already oppose. Ms. Lynch appears to have the bare minimum number of votes needed to be confirmed, with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. available to break a 50-50 tie.

But it is not as if the Senate never considers executive branch nominations with other legislation on the floor. In fact, the Senate is scheduled to vote Mondayevening on two assistant secretary nominations. But Mr. McConnell is not likely to give in on the Lynch nomination very easily.

The drama over the trafficking bill and the Lynch nomination will take center stage on Capitol Hill this week. But the House is back after a weeklong recess, and Republicans plan to unveil their budget proposal on Tuesday to begin several weeks of high-profile budget debate.