WASHINGTON - A Senate stalemate over legislation to combat human trafficking deepened Thursday, almost certainly delaying a confirmation vote on the president's attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, until mid-April.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had planned a vote on Lynch's long-delayed nomination this week but put it off when bipartisan support for the trafficking bill collapsed in a spat over abortion. He said he wanted to finish the trafficking bill first.
That goal looked even harder to reach Thursday, as competing proposals were advanced to break the impasse, and both quickly rejected by partisans on either side.
"I'm kind of devoid of additional ideas right now," Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) said Thursday afternoon after his compromise proposal had been dismissed by Democrats. He, in turn, shot down a competing plan from moderate Sens. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.).
Together the events hardened the impasse on the anti-trafficking bill. The legislation had looked primed for easy passage until last week, when Democrats said they discovered language in the bill barring money in a victims' fund from being used to pay for abortions.
Lynch now looks as if she is in for an even lengthier wait. The Senate plans to turn next week to the budget, after which Congress will be on a two-week recess.
Her predicament had Democrats fuming, even though they were in control of the Senate when she was first nominated and failed to call her up for a vote.
On Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) accused Republicans of putting Lynch at "the back of the bus" with the lengthy delays, a comment that incensed Republicans. Lynch would become the nation's first black female attorney general.
"Such inflammatory rhetoric has no place in this body and serves no purpose other than to further divide us," Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said Thursday on the Senate floor.