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McConnell: No Loretta Lynch confirmation until vote on human trafficking bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks, with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) behind him, after a Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on March 10. (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general may hinge on whether Congress works out its gridlock over a human trafficking bill.

"It's not a threat. We need to finish this human trafficking bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously . . . because the next week we'll be doing the budget and the next two weeks after that Congress is not in session," McConnell said on CNN's "State of the Union."

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, authored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), has been stalled after Democrats accused Republicans of sneaking anti-abortion language into the bill. McConnell noted that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee unanimously agreed on the bill before forwarding it.

"They all voted for the very same language in a bill in December," he said.

Senate Democrats say Republicans sneaked the language into authorization measures. At question is a provision that the new Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund will be subject to Hyde Amendment limitations. The long-standing amendment prohibits the use of federal taxpayer funds for abortions. The new fund, created under the proposed bill, would be supported by fines imposed on traffickers.

Meanwhile, Lynch's confirmation process has taken the longest compared with those of others who held the post, dating at least to Janet Reno. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called on McConnell to "keep his word" and not delay the vote on Lynch. There is no procedural excuse for further delay and her nomination can be brought to the floor at any time, according to a statement from Adam Jentleson, Reid's spokesman.

"By continuing to stall Lynch's nomination Republicans are failing yet another basic test of their ability to govern," the statement said. "There is nothing stopping the Senate from confirming Lynch and continuing to debate the trafficking bill this week, except Senator McConnell's unwillingness to bring her nomination up for a vote."

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, called McConnell’s comments “politics at its worst.”

“Opponents of safe and legal abortion are using a bill that was supposed to help women to hurt women and hold up the important Senate business of confirming a well-qualified nominee to serve as Attorney General,” Richards said in a statement.