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US Attorney General Confirmation Battle Intensifies

Loretta Lynch testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing to become U.S. attorney general, in Washington, Jan. 28, 2015.

The coming week brings increased pressure on U.S. senators to vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general.

Federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch has been awaiting confirmation since November. Republicans who control the Senate said they will schedule a vote as soon as pending legislation to combat human trafficking is approved.

US Attorney General Confirmation Battle Intensifies
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A frustrated Obama chastised the Senate Friday for delaying the Lynch confirmation vote.

“Enough. Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote," Obama said. "Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job. This is embarrassing.”

Lynch would be the United States' first female African-American attorney general. She has prosecuted numerous high-profile cases in recent years involving terrorism and financial misdeeds, and probed human rights violations and allegations of police brutality.

When Obama nominated her to be America’s top law enforcement official last year, Lynch said, "The Department of Justice is the only Cabinet department named for an ideal. And I will work every day to safeguard our citizens, our liberties, our rights, and this great nation which has given so much to me and my family."

But the Senate is currently deadlocked on a bill to help the victims of human trafficking and sexual slavery. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the legislation is vital and overdue.

“Human trafficking is a serious problem in our country. It is hard for people to believe, but it occurs in every single state,” McConnell said.

Fellow Republican John Cornyn said the bill’s concept is simple and enjoys universal bipartisan support.

“What it would do is create a victims’ compensation fund from the fines and penalties assessed against people who were engaging in child pornography and other sex-related crimes,” Cornyn said.

But Democrats object to language that would prevent those funds from being used by victims seeking an abortion, and are refusing to allow a final vote until the issue is resolved.

Republicans, meanwhile, said there will be no vote on Lynch as long as the human trafficking bill remains in limbo.

Democrat Richard Durbin said the Senate could easily vote to confirm Lynch while a solution to the human trafficking impasse is sought.

“Senators can vote for or against Loretta Lynch to be attorney general. That is their right. But a nominee whose qualifications and character are unquestionable deserves better than the treatment she is receiving from the U.S. Senate. Ms. Lynch deserves a timely vote,” Durbin said.

The delay in confirming Lynch is the longest for an attorney general nominee in more than three decades. She would replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who remains on the job until his successor is confirmed.

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