U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi joined nine other Republicans Thursday in voting to confirm veteran New York federal prosecutor Loretta E. Lynch as U.S. attorney general.
Republican senators have received wide criticism for the five months of delay in confirming Lynch, the first African American woman to be nominated for attorney general.
Much speculation centered on how Cochran would vote. Mississippi’s African-American voters helped the veteran lawmaker win a close GOP primary runoff against Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel, a state senator from Laurel.
A vote against Lynch would have been seen as a betrayal of the voters who kept him in office, political analysts said in the weeks leading up to the long-delayed vote.
Forty-three senators, all Republicans, opposed the confirmation.
Cochran was joined by fellow Republicans Mitch McConnell, majority leader; and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Rob Portman (Ohio). Ayotte, Johnson, Portman and Kirk represent states that went for President Obama in 2012 and face tough re-election campaigns.
Republicans argued Lynch’s support for Obama’s executive order on immigration, among other policy positions, disqualified her for office.
It’s an argument that “defies common sense,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in a Washington Post report Thursday.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re qualified,” she said. “That makes no difference. We have a new test: You must disagree with the president who nominates you.”
If the GOP’s argument against Lynch becomes the norm, it will become nearly impossible to get any president’s nominations approved, considering the reluctance of presidents to nominate people with whom they disagree, McCaskill said.
“It’s beyond depressing; it’s disgusting.”
Lynch, 55, replaces Eric Holder, who has been attorney general since the start of the first Obama administration.