After a lengthy waiting period, The U.S. Senate voted 56-43 on Thursday (April 23) to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next attorney general.
The 55-year-old two-time U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York is the first African-American female in history to hold the position.
Ms. Lynch’s confirmation comes after five extremely politicized months of delays initiated by Republican detractors, who, while they agreed that she was qualified for the position, opposed her appointment to the cabinet by President Barack Obama because she defended the president’s executive actions on immigration.
According to The New York Times, Kentucky Republican and majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell held up the nomination in favor of voting on the human trafficking bill, which passed by a vote of 99 to 0 on Wednesday.
“We do not have to confirm someone to the highest law enforcement position in America if that someone has committed to denigrating Congress,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, on the Senate floor. “We don’t need to be apologetic about it, colleagues.”
To the surprise of many, 10 Republicans, including Senator McConnell, voted in favor of Ms. Lynch.
“She is a historic nominee, but also Senate Republicans are making history,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. “And I would say for the wrong reasons. I can only hope that Senate Republicans will show her more respect as the attorney general of the United States than they did as a nominee. She has earned this respect. Her story is one of perseverance, of grace and grit.”
Ms. Lynch replaces outgoing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. at a time when relations between police and the communities that they serve couldn’t be more strained. She’ll be tasked to reduce the chasm between the two parties and reestablish the public’s trust in law enforcement. She’ll also face numerous challenges in criminal justice reform.
"Loretta's confirmation ensures that we are better positioned to keep our communities safe, keep our nation secure, and ensure that every American experiences justice under the law," President Obama said in a statement shortly after the Senate’s vote.