If confirmed, Lynch would become the first African American woman to serve as attorney general, succeeding Eric H. Holder, the first black attorney general.
Democrats have been outspoken in pushing Republican leaders to confirm Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, noting that she has waited longer than other AG nominees for confirmation. Some Republicans, meanwhile, have pledged to oppose her — in large part for her refusal to criticize Obama's executive orders on immigration.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), for instance, wrote in a Feb. 24 Politico op-ed that Lynch had "extreme, radical positions" on the immigration orders and other matters: "We can honor our oaths to the Constitution — we can defend liberty and the rule of law — or we can confirm an attorney general who has candidly admitted she will impose no limits on the President whatsoever."
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), speaking with fellow Senate Democratic leaders after McConnell's remarks, said she was pleased that Lynch would at last get a vote. "It's about time," she said. "I hope they don't play any more games with that."
Cruz and other Lynch opponents will have limited ability to block the vote if they wish. Executive nominees need only a simple majority to limit debate and proceed to a confirmation vote under rules Democrats imposed in 2013. Three Republicans — Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) — supported Lynch in committee, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also voicing support, giving her 50 votes. Vice President Biden could break a tie in Lynch's favor if no other Republicans voted to confirm.