Over a 30-year career, President Barack Obama’s U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch has assembled a lengthy record as a champion for justice, a dogged prosecutor of hate crimes and political corruption, and an officer of the court committed to protecting the Constitution and human rights.
Ms. Lynch has distinguished herself as a tough, fair and independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most active and effective U.S. Attorney’s offices in the country.
Yet by the time the U.S. Senate heads back to Washington, D.C., after a two-week recess, she will have been waiting more than five months for her nomination to be attorney general to be confirmed, the longest any attorney general nominee has waited in three decades.
From her time prosecuting narcotics and violent crimes in the Eastern District of New York, Lynch has spent decades fighting to protect the rights of Americans and to keep us safe. She comes from a family of service, having been born and raised in North Carolina, where her mother once picked cotton to earn money for college. She is the daughter of a preacher and a librarian, and the granddaughter of a rural North Carolina sharecropper and preacher who helped people move out of the Jim Crow South in the 1930s. Lynch has two brothers – one a minister and the other, now deceased, a Navy SEAL.
Loretta Lynch would be the first African-American woman to lead the Department of Justice, and she would come in with a track record of protecting national security, taking on human trafficking and addressing corruption. Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has held up her confirmation not over her qualifications – those are too widely respected – but instead he has inserted the obstructionist politics of the Senate into the process.
Lynch’s confirmation has been subject to complaints about immigration and, ironically, human trafficking, but no serious debate about whether she would be an effective attorney general. This type of political gamesmanship should not dictate the confirmation of America’s top law enforcement official.
Many communities across the country and throughout Florida look to DOJ for leadership and assistance in the effort to keep our residents safe. The Department of Justice alone is responsible for over $1 billion in assistance for state and local law enforcement, offering administration, equipment and oversight support through numerous programs. Strong leadership at DOJ is vital to ensuring that those efforts continue to be effective.
Just weeks ago, this Congress took funding for the Department of Homeland Security to the brink. The Senate should certainly not continue that pattern by playing games with the leadership of DOJ.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has an obligation to urge his GOP colleagues to put an end to these political games and bring Lynch’s confirmation to a vote.
Lynch has a strong record of fighting human trafficking, which means that Florida has an even higher stake in this nomination going through. Florida is one of the states with the highest incidences of human trafficking in the country and is considered a hub in trafficking activity.
America, and Florida in particular, needs a tough, hard-working defender of justice to serve as attorney general, and Lynch embodies that. It is time for Sen. Rubio to urge Sen. McConnell to bring her nomination to the floor and confirm her to lead the Department of Justice. No more putting politics ahead of public safety.
Mark Ferrulo is executive director of Progress Florida.