The Loretta Lynch Confirmation Mess
March 18, 2015, 1:00am

Republicans Sabotage Sex Trafficking Bill with Anti-Abortion Provision

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD – The New York Times.

What does the abortion issue have to do with the prevention of human trafficking? Nothing.

What do either of those things have to do with Loretta Lynch, whom President Obama nominated more than four months ago to succeed Eric Holder Jr. as attorney general of the United States? Even less.

Yet Ms. Lynch’s confirmation as the nation’s top law enforcement officer — which seemed like a sure thing only a few weeks ago — is being held hostage to last-minute political mischief.

Ms. Lynch, a supremely well-qualified prosecutor, has waited far too long to be confirmed. Senate Republicans said as recently as last week that they would schedule Ms. Lynch’s confirmation vote for this week, but, on Sunday, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said that won’t happen until the Senate moves forward on a bipartisan trafficking bill, which would, among other things, establish a fund for victims through a fine paid by those convicted of trafficking crimes.

The legislation, which sailed through committee in February, stalled last week when Democrats noticed a provision that would prohibit money in the fund from being used to pay for abortions. The original Senate bill, introduced in the last Congress, made no reference to abortion. Nor did the House’s version of the bill, introduced by Representative Erik Paulsen, a Republican of Minnesota. “There is no reason it should be included in these bills,” Mr. Paulsen said last week of the abortion language. “This issue is far too important to tie it up with an unrelated fight with politics as usual.”

Republicans say they routinely add the abortion language into many bills and that Democrats should have read more carefully. Democrats say Republicans operated in bad faith — not to mention in violation of Senate norms — by misrepresenting the bill’s contents.

This dispute has nothing to do with the needs of the Justice Department. It is beyond irresponsible to strand the department without a leader, sowing instability and uncertainty in an important executive agency.

Mr. Holder announced his retirement in September, to the evident delight of Republicans who have opposed him from the start. One would have thought they would be eager to see him go, yet almost six months later he remains in office because a replacement has not been confirmed. No one disputes Ms. Lynch’s experience or accomplishments. She currently leads the federal prosecutor’s office in the Eastern District of New York, and she has received the support of senators of both parties. The only objection anyone could come up with was that she might not stand up against President Obama’s policies, an odd criticism to aim at a prospective cabinet member.

Of course, as Mr. McConnell readily acknowledged, the delay is not simply about trafficking legislation but a redirection of Republicans’ fury at what they consider Mr. Obama’s lawless actions. Ms. Lynch is “suffering from the president’s actions,” he said Sunday, referring to Mr. Obama’s move on immigration policy last November.

This is not the way for Republicans to reassure the country of their ability to govern now that they control both houses of Congress. Instead, they could start by ending the delay on what should be a straightforward floor vote and do the job Americans elected them to do.