After weeks of waiting for Loretta Lynch's confirmation vote, Harry Reid is tired of waiting. With five Republicans already supporting her, the Democratic leader is planning to bypass Mitch McConnell next week and use a series of procedural measures to force their hands.
But already, two of the Republicans supporting Lynch say they're not having it. Although Sens. Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham plan to vote for Lynch to be the next attorney general, they say they have no interested in delivering a slap-in-the-face to their majority leader, McConnell, who has said he plans to bring up the nomination later in the week anyway.
Reid's plan to bypass McConnell puts all five Republicans who support the Lynch nomination on notice. In addition to Flake and Graham, Sens. Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, and Mark Kirk have said that they will vote for Lynch's nomination, giving Democrats enough votes to confirm her as Eric Holder's replacement.
But if those members vote against Reid's bid to move forward—McConnell's wishes be damned—the Democratic leader is already forecasting a world of political hurt awaiting them on the other side.
Reid told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday that he would force a vote on Lynch, telling the host: "I had a conversation today with a number of Republicans and told them really to get [Lynch] done or I will make sure they will have an opportunity to vote against her."
And President Obama on Friday blasted the Senate Republicans, calling the delay embarrassing. "There are times when the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far. This is an example of it. It's gone too far. Enough. Enough," Obama told reporters. "Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job. This is embarrassing, a process like this."
Reid's plan is to call up a vote as early as Monday for the Senate to go into executive session so that he can file cloture on the Lynch nomination. He'll need 51 votes just to get into executive session and another 51 votes to confirm her. With Flake and Graham already signaling their disinterest, Reid is at least two votes short. Some of the 16 remaining undecided votes could help Reid to get over that legislative hurdle, but given the bitter politics surrounding the Lynch nomination, that's unlikely.
Graham said in a statement provided to National Journal on Friday that he hopes the legislative stalemate surrounding the Lynch nomination is resolved, but added: "I'm going to support my leader."
McConnell's team is confident that Reid will not have the votes to go through with his plan. "He went way over his skis," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said of Reid's announcement on Maddow. "He cannot force a vote on Lynch." Without the cooperation of at least five Republicans, that is.
"It's like he was living in the past," Stewart said, pointing out that McConnell said Thursday evening that he is hopeful the Senate will pass the long-delayed human trafficking bill early next week and then move on to Lynch.
Several Democratic members engaged in conversations with Sen. John Cornyn and other Republicans on Thursday to ensure that series of events. The confirmation vote could come as early as the middle of next week, Stewart said. "We're already way past Harry Reid on this," Stewart said.
Even as members say they're nearing a deal on trafficking, it's still possible that those talks will fall apart or take longer than expected, further delaying the nomination.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
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