Loretta Lynch is not only embroiled in “the longest confirmation process for an attorney general in three decades” — as President Obama noted in his weekly address Saturday — but she’s also one of the longest nominees-in-waiting of any Cabinet official in the past three White Houses.
And when the Senate returns in mid-April after its two-week spring break, Lynch will have waited longer than any Cabinet nominee under Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton for her confirmation vote.
The Loop, with the help of our graphics colleague Kevin Uhrmacher, crunched data available on Senate.gov to see how long every Cabinet nominee waited under the past three presidents. We also checked whether the length changed when the Senate and the White House were controlled by different parties. (Naturally, it did.)
Of the three administrations, the longest-waiting nominee, to date, was Togo West, Clinton’s pick in 1998 for veterans affairs secretary. He waited 147 days to be confirmed, but he was “acting secretary” while he waited.
He initially was held up because of Republican concerns over allegations that Clinton gave Arlington National Cemetery grave plots to campaign donors. The Washington Post reported then that the General Accounting Office found no wrongdoing.
The next longest was John Bryson, Obama’s pick for commerce secretary. Republicans held his nomination hostage until the Senate passed a package of free trade deals in 2011.
But most of the time, the president gets whom he wants for his team.
Former senator Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), who was majority leader from mid-2001 until 2003, couldn’t recall a time the Senate delayed a Cabinet nominee vote for leverage.
“There are times when those nominees can become very controversial, and I think that has happened with both Democratic and Republican presidents, and both majorities,” Daschle told the Loop in an interview. “But I think there has to be a pretty unique set of circumstances to indefinitely delay a right to a vote.”
Lynch’s vote was first held over objections to her support for Obama’s immigration executive actions, then over Senate Democrats’ refusal to support a human-trafficking bill because of its abortion language, and this week due to work on the budget.
Former senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who was majority leader from 1996 through mid-2001, said “slowing down or asking a lot of questions or even defeating nominations” is one way Congress can exert power over the executive branch. Most of the time the Senate gives the president “the benefit of the doubt,” he said, but in the case of Lynch: “She didn’t help herself. Republicans feel very strongly she defended something unconstitutional.” (He’s referring to the immigration action.)
“I think she’s going to get confirmed, but she can’t expect to be approved lickety split,” Lott told the Loop.
Still, Lott recalls that when he was in charge and there were issues with nominees or other things, he would simply call Clinton or Bush and hash it out. Clinton would call him to haggle for an extra few judicial nominees. Lott would call Bush at 7 a.m. to circumvent his staff. (No, Karl Rove was not happy.)
“If I was Mitch, I’d just call the president,” Lott said. “A big part of the problem is the lack of communication and respect for the institutions they represent.”
We asked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office if he and the president had spoken by phone about Lynch. McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart said he wasn’t aware of any calls.
Maybe start there, guys?
In his farewell address in Congress on Thursday, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), whose spending from his campaign accounts and some of his mileage reimbursement claims are under investigation by the Justice Department, cited Abraham Lincoln as a source of inspiration.
“I also know that every person faces adversity in life,” Schock said, noting that “Abraham Lincoln held this seat in Congress in one term. But few faced as many defeats in his personal, business and public life as he did.”
Schock said Lincoln’s “continual perseverance in the face of these trials — never giving up — is something all of us Americans should be inspired by, especially when going through a valley in life.”
And while it’s not known whether Lincoln had Schock’s six-pack abs, the two Republicans had more in common than just adversity and the same congressional district.
It seems Lincoln also came under fire for his mileage reimbursement claims. Back in 1848, the legendary New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley busted Lincoln for claiming excess mileage in his travels between Springfield, Ill., and Washington.
By Greeley’s calculations, Lincoln collected “some $677 in excess mileage — more than $18,700 today — among the House’s worst offenders,” according to a March 17 post on the ProPublica Nerd Blog by Scott Klein based on a paper he prepared last year.
Back in November, we launched an In the Loop contest — “Stop Teasing and Start Running” — to guess which Republican or Democrat would be the first to formally declare his or her candidacy in the 2016 presidential race.
Former senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) promptly announced that he was launching an exploratory committee to consider running.
Others, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and super-surgeon Ben Carson, followed suit. But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Monday became the first major candidate to officially announce his candidacy.
So the winners, the first 10 entrants (among dozens) who predicted Cruz would be the first to announce, are:
Mark Hoyland, a retired federal employee from Woodbridge, Va., who entered at 7:06 a.m.
Sam Schildhaus, who styles himself a “semi-retired” researcher in Washington, had the second entry.
Dan Bubacz, of Acworth, Ga., who works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tied for second, entering at exactly 8 a.m.
Sean O’Hanlon, an attorney from Alexandria, entered five minutes after that.
Hugh Stempfley, a retiree from Marion, Ill., was next in, suggesting Cruz would announce in January after “most of the bowl games.”
Jerry Ulsund, of Hansville, Wash., entered later that morning (but he’s on Pacific time so. . . .)
Jill Hallgren, a Justice Department contractor from the District, was the seventh entrant to predict Cruz.
Dorie Finnerman, a lawyer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, entered next.
Harry Zane, a retired marketer from Ayer, Mass., thought Cruz would be first because “he can’t stand a publicity vacuum.”
Julie Saulnier, an attorney from Bethesda, was the next in.
Congratulations — and official “In the Loop” T-shirts – to the winners. Thanks to all for entering.
Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz