Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin took the political fight over attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch to a new level on Wednesday by saying that Republicans are trying to force her “to sit in the back of the bus.”
Durbin’s reference was to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who in 1955 famously refused a Montgomery, Ala. bus driver’s demand that she give up her seat to a white patron.
Durbin, from Illinois, was upset over Republicans’ decision to delay a confirmation vote on Lynch until a bill to fund a relief program for sex trafficking victims is resolved.
“The fact is there is no substantive reason to stop this nomination,” Durbin said on the Senate floor. “The Republican Majority Leader announced over the weekend that he was going to hold this nomination of Loretta Lynch until the bill which is pending before the Senate passes, whenever that may be.”
“And so Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar. That is unfair. It’s unjust.”
President Obama nominated Lynch to replace Eric Holder — the first African-American attorney general — in November. She is currently the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
“It is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate,” Durbin continued. “This woman deserves fairness. She seeks to lead the Department of Justice, and the United States Senate should be just in its treatment of her nomination. To think that we would jeopardize her opportunity to serve this nation and to make history is fundamentally unfair.”
Durbin then turned to discussion of the sex trafficking bill. Republican Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn proposed the measure which would provide funds to sex trafficking victims. The money would come from fees assessed to traffickers. But the bill includes restrictions against that money being used to pay for victims’ abortions. Democrats oppose the language.
Durbin’s rhetoric is stronger than that issued by the White House on Tuesday.
“Ms. Lynch has now been waiting 129 days for confirmation,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “And that speaks to the kind of unconscionable delay that we’ve seen in the United States.”
Lynch has the support of all Senate Democrats. Four Republicans have said that they will consider voting for her. If she received all of those votes she would squeak through nomination.