“We will not be moved, we will not go back, we will not stop,” said Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner as she led a prayer outside the door of the U.S. Capitol office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as staff and U.S. Capitol police officers stirred nearby.
About 20 prominent black women arrived at the ornate office suites of McConnell Thursday morning, asking to meet with him—even if for only a few minutes in the hallway—over the delay in confirming Attorney General-designate Loretta Lynch. They were told McConnell was too busy. The women did meet with McConnell’s chief of staff for about 20 minutes.
The group that arrived at his door included Williams-Skinner; attorney Barbara Arnwine, president of the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights; Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; Sheila Tyson, a city councilwoman from Birmingham, Ala.; and Marcia Dyson, CEO of the Women’s Global Initiative.
They asserted that the treatment of Lynch was a double standard rarely if ever applied to any other nominee for attorney general. Lynch, a career prosecutor who earned a degree from Harvard Law in 1984, has already been confirmed by the Senate twice before. If confirmed currently, Lynch would be the first African-American female attorney general of the 82 individuals who have been confirmed over 225 years.
Lynch has now waited longer for confirmation than any other attorney general nominee in 31 years, and longer than the last five nominees combined. The average wait time for an attorney general nominee is 18 days. Lynch, who has nominated by President Barack Obama Nov. 8, has now waited 138 days.
The delay on Lynch’s nomination has nothing to do with qualifications or personal problems. Her confirmation saga is yet another unprecedented event during the Obama presidency, an event that many argue is about Lynch’s race and gender.
“If it looks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck. The duck is that she’s being treated differently. That’s a standard that allows some people to call this both racist and sexist,” Williams-Skinner told reporters a few feet from McConnell’s door.
“We now stand in the halls of the United States Senate and 138 days have gone by, and this qualified African-American woman has not been confirmed. The country is now without a newly confirmed leader at the Department of Justice,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
The Senate is now likely to wait at least another two weeks to vote on Lynch. Congress is scheduled to return from Easter recess April 13.
“We think it’s ironic and distasteful that during this upcoming holy week that she would be used as a sacrificial lamb—like a pawn being played. First it’s immigration. Now it’s human trafficking. We think it’s unconscionable, it’s immoral. A man who calls himself a Christian, Mitch McConnell, should do better for America,” said Williams-Skinner.
When asked what was learned from the meeting with McConnell’s chief of staff, Williams-Skinner said, “Talking points about human trafficking, which is an insult. You can’t trade off Loretta Lynch, who’s been waiting almost five months. No other nominee has waited more than 18 days on average.”
Another complication in the Lynch nomination is emerging: The vote may be very close. There is talk that Vice President Joe Biden may have to break a tie in order for Lynch to be confirmed. Complicating matters further, Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat representing New Jersey, won’t reveal whether he will vote in favor of her nomination. It has been widely reported that Menendez is facing a federal indictment.
Last week the debate around the Lynch nomination heated up after Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) took to the Senate floor and declared that Lynch was being “forced to sit on the back of the bus,” waiting for a Senate vote.
That comment, in reference to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, prompted charges of race-baiting from the Senate’s only black Republican, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and a call for Durbin to apologize by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).