Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, who would be the first African American woman to lead the Justice Department if confirmed, has all the votes she needs for confirmation — if she actually receives a vote, that is. Two weeks ago, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said that he would vote to confirm her, bringing the total number of senators who support her confirmation to 51. Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that he will not bring her up for a vote until after the Senate resolves a dispute over abortion-related provisions attached to a sex trafficking bill — a dispute that remains at a stalemate.
A spokesperson for Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tells ThinkProgress, however, that Reid will invoke a procedural maneuver that will force senators to vote on whether to consider her nomination “very, very soon.” According to Adam Jentleson, Reid’s Communications Director, “any senator can make a motion to proceed to any nomination on the executive calendar, triggering a vote on that motion.” Should Reid make such a motion to proceed to a vote on Lynch, that will trigger the kind of labyrinthian sequence of votes on votes that can only exist in the United States Senate:
Senator Reid will move to proceed to executive session to consider the Lynch nomination, triggering an immediate simple majority vote. (Lynch’s nomination is on the executive calendar because it was reported out of committee.) If the vote succeeds, the Senate will be in executive session, at which point Senator Reid can and will file cloture on the Lynch nomination, triggering a cloture vote two days later (by rule there must be an intervening day between the filing and the cloture vote, unless waived by consent). If the cloture vote succeeds, there will be a maximum of 30 hours of debate followed by a final confirmation vote.
Jentleson adds that “[a]ll votes in this sequence are simple majority votes,” and that the “only thing Senator Reid needs to file cloture is a petition with 16 signatures on it, which can be all Democrats.”
While Lynch ostensibly has the votes to be confirmed, it remains to be seen whether the Republicans who say they support her nomination will actually do so if Reid decides to work around McConnell’s unwillingness to schedule a vote. Lynch previously cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 12–8 vote, with Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona joining the majority.