Black women leaders, clergy pray for Lynch vote

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WASHINGTON– A group of African American women leaders and clergy visited Capitol Hill on Thursday to push for a vote on the stalled confirmation of Loretta Lynch, who would be the first black woman to serve as attorney general.

The roughly two dozen women, accompanied by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), demanded a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss the issue, but were only allowed to meet with a top aide in the Russell Senate Office Building, because of the senator’s jam-packed pre-recess schedule. Afterward, the women held an unusual prayer session just steps from the leader’s office in the Capitol, calling on God to help Congress make history in confirming Lynch.

Lynch, a two-time U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was nominated in November and has waited more than four months for a vote in the full Senate. McConnell has pledged to delay a vote on her confirmation until the chamber completes consideration of an unrelated sex trafficking bill.

Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner, co-chairwoamn of the National African American Clergy Network and one of the group’s organizers called the delayed vote “an affront to women.” Minister Leslie Malachi, the director of African American Religiojus Affairs at People for the American Way Foundation and one of the participants in the 20-minute meeting said she was not pleased with the McConnell aide’s response, complaining he largely stuck to talking points about the trafficking bill.

“I found the response to be patronizing, condescending and an insult to our intelligence. There definitely was a script and we understand the staffer had to do what he had to do,” Malachi said, adding of McConnell “we’re praying for him, but we also will be positioning ourselves to be a thorn in his flesh on this.”

The trafficking bill had bipartisan backing until Democrats discovered Republicans had added an anti-abortion provision they oppose. Three procedural votes to end debate on the bill failed last week, as Democrats withdrew their support, and efforts to reach a compromise have gone nowhere. The Senate was set to spend all of Thursday debating the budget and accompanying amendments. A two-week Easter recess begins next week, so Lynch’s confirmation vote will almost certainly be delayed until April.

“This very qualified woman has had no criticism of her credentials,” Rep. Jackson Lee said after the meeting. “We’re here to pronounce the importance of the confirmation of this qualified woman.”

The standoff over the Lynch vote has angered her supporters who have held a series of press conferences and calls demanding a vote. Some have even blamed race or gender for the delay.

The impasse has also drawn the attention of prominent Republican supporters like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who called her an “extraordinary appointment” and urged a swift vote to confirm her.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart reiterated the majority leader’s position, which has not changed.

“The only thing holding up that vote is the Democrats’ filibuster of a bill that would help prevent kids from being sold into sex slavery. The sooner they allow the Senate to pass that bipartisan bill, the sooner the Senate can move to the Lynch nomination.