McConnell: No Lynch vote unless Democrats relent on bill

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday said he plans to hold up attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation until the Senate passes a now-controversial human trafficking bill.

“This will have an impact on the timing of considering a new attorney general,” McConnell told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “I had hoped to turn to her next week, but if we can’t finish the trafficking bill, she will be put off again.”

Democrats are now holding up the trafficking bill, which glided through the judiciary committee, after they noticed an abortion provision embedded in the bill that would prevent victims of human trafficking from using restitution funds to pay for an abortion.

“We have to finish the human trafficking bill,” McConnell said. “The Loretta Lynch nomination comes next.”

A vote on Lynch’s nomination was slated to take place this coming week, more than two weeks after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Lynch’s nomination.

Democrats have pointed out that Lynch’s nomination has been held up in the Senate longer than any U.S. attorney general nominee in three decades.

President Barack Obama nominated Lynch to lead the Justice Department in November, but Lynch’s committee hearing didn’t come until after Republicans took control of the Senate.

The No. 3 Senate Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer responded to McConnell’s threat on Sunday, calling on Republicans to “stop dragging their feet” on Lynch’s nomination.

“For months and months, Republicans have failed to move forward with‎ her nomination using any excuse they can, except for any credible objection to her nomination itself,” Schumer said in a statement. “Loretta Lynch, and the American people, don’t deserve this. At a time when terrorists from ISIS to Al-Shabaab threaten the United States, the nominee to be attorney general deserves an up or down vote.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, said McConnell’s argument that the Senate first needs to pass the trafficking bill amounts to a “hollow excuse.”

“The Senate can debate legislation and vote on nominations at the same time,” Leahy said in a statement. “We did just that last Thursday, when we voted on four other executive nominations while we were on the human trafficking bill and we will vote on two more executive nominations Monday evening.”

And a spokesman for Minority Leader Harry Reid slammed McConnell for holding up Lynch’s nomination.

“There is nothing stopping the Senate from confirming Lynch and continuing to debate the trafficking bill this week, except Senator McConnell’s unwillingness to bring her nomination up for a vote,” the spokesman Adam Jentleson said in a statement. “No more excuses, no more delays. Confirm Loretta Lynch now.”

Lynch is expected to be confirmed once her nomination comes up for a vote in the Senate. Lynch was initially considered a shoo-in for the position because of her strong record as a prosecutor, but more Republicans have come out against nominating Lynch since the committee hearing last month, mostly over concerns tied to Obama’s executive action on immigration.

McConnell would not say Sunday whether he would vote in Lynch’s favor, but some members of his leadership team, including Majority Whip John Cornyn and Sen. Roy Blunt, plan to vote down the nomination.

CNN’s Dana Bash and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

By Jeremy Diamond