Much of what goes on in the Capitol is opaque to most Americans, including the lengthy delay in confirming a presidential cabinet nominee.
Loretta Lynch is close to becoming a record. President Obama's choice to become the next attorney general − and the first African American woman to hold the job − is approaching the 147-day record of Togo West, a President Clinton appointee for Veterans Affairs. Republicans delayed West's confirmation because of concerns Clinton gave Arlington Cemetery plots to campaign donor, allegations that were later called unfounded.
John Bryson, Obama's nominee for Commerce secretary, stalled for 142 days. Republicans held up his conformation until free-trade deals were passed.
Lynch is in limbo because Republicans, who control the Senate, are using her confirmation as political leverage to pass an anti-abortion provision as part of a human trafficking bill that enjoys bipartisan support. Some Democrats have charged that Lynch, a Harvard law graduate with impeccable prosecutorial credentials, has been left waiting in the wings for 137 days so far because she is black. Some Republicans were enraged because she defended Obama's executive order on immigration.
The Washington Post assembled a chart showing the longest confirmation delays over the last three presidencies. It shows that the average confirmation time for Obama appointees is 56 days, compared to 44 days under President George W. Bush and Clinton.
Lynch is likely to be confirmed at some point. Her delayed approval is also likely to deepen partisan feelings that already run pretty deep. Her appointment and confirmation is a case study on how political parties wrestle for advantage, using whatever holds they can.