The U.S. Senate made history April 23 when it voted to confirm the nation’s first Black female U.S. attorney general.


Loretta Lynch, the next attorney general of the United States. (AP Photo by: J. Scott Applewhite)

Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, won confirmation as the next attorney general of the United States by a vote of 56-43. All of the Senate Democrats were joined by the chamber’s two independents, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine) in voting for Lynch along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and his party members Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a 2016 presidential candidate, didn’t vote. South Carolina’s Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, voted against Lynch.

NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks applauded the Senate for its “historic confirmation” of Lynch. “She will serve as a relentless defender of the rights of all Americans,” Brooks said. “She will lead in situating the U.S. Department of Justice as our country’s enforcer of our civil rights, voting rights, employment rights, housing rights and human trafficking laws. Ms. Lynch will lead the U.S. Department of Justice, and the United States, with an integrity and strength that is sorely needed at this time.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that Lynch’s confirmation, which took a record 166 days, was an overtly political and flawed process. “Lynch faced this unprecedented obstruction not because of her fitness for office, but because her nomination was inappropriately used in a proxy war against President and his allies,” Henderson said. “While we applaud those senators who chose to judge Lynch on her merits to be attorney general, congressional Republicans have a long way to go in proving that they can provide the necessary leadership to govern.”

The Congressional Black Caucus, Delta Sigma Theta and various civil and human rights organizations led the effort to get Lynch confirmed, urging their constituents and members to contact their senators to vote for her. The Lynch debate often took on politically partisan overtones, and Michael Tyler, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said that should not have been the case.

“Instead of working to ensure that our justice system serves its citizens to the best of its ability by swiftly confirming Lynch, Republicans chose to delay her confirmation for longer than any attorney general in over three decades for pure political purposes,” Tyler said. “Moving forward, Americans deserve leaders who will get things done for the American people, leaders like Loretta Lynch-not more of this obstructionist nonsense that we’ve seen from the likes of Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz; all of whom voted against her confirmation.”

Cruz voted against sending Lynch’s nomination to the floor in a Feb. 28 Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.

A swearing-in date has not been set.