The PJ Tatler

Senator: GOP Refusal to Resurrect Voting Rights Act Fed Durbin's 'Back of the Bus' Comment

A Delaware Democrat said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) floor comment that attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch “is being asked to sit on the back of the bus when it comes to Senate calendar” could have been influenced by Republicans not getting on board with voting rights legislation.

Democrats are pushing to pass a “fix” to the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Durbin on the floor that the comment “was offensive and unnecessary and I think he owes this body, Ms. Lynch, and all Americans an apology.” Durbin has not offered one.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told MSNBC “it raises real questions for her to be languishing on the floor longer than all five previous nominees for attorney general combined.”

“I’m not sure that it would be this poignant, this pointed, if it weren’t for the combination of Ms. Lynch’s remarkable qualifications, how well she did in the confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee and how important the issues are that are going unaddressed — voting rights, enforcement of Civil Rights, enforcement of the laws against human trafficking,” Coons said.

It’s the human trafficking bill — which Democrats have blocked from coming to a vote five times — that Senate Republican leaders say is holding up the Lynch nod. The bipartisan bill is opposed by Dems who object to Hyde amendment language that blocks federal funding from being used for abortions.

“I don’t think this would be quite as sharp an exchange on the floor if we weren’t having such difficulty finding Republicans to take up their historic party’s commitment to civil rights and join us in fixing things like voting rights,” Coons added.

The senator also dismissed GOP objections to Lynch that focus on her whether she’ll be too loyal to President Obama’s agenda.

“It’s the president who’s nominated her. The idea that the president would nominate someone to be attorney general who has an opposite view from him of the law and of the appropriate scope of his action just is ludicrous on its face,” Coons said.

“There are arguments being offered here on both sides that I think miss the central point. We have a remarkably qualified nominee, someone who should have been confirmed weeks ago, who is languishing for murky reasons. And I think Senator Durbin was simply trying to highlight the fact that this is an alarming development and that it’s important for us to move forward to this nomination.”