Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that he doesn't plan on turning the Senate's attention to the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general until resolving a stalemate over anti-human trafficking legislation.
The human trafficking debate was supposed to be the bipartisan one , with the bill having already won unanimous support in the Judiciary Committee, but it has since been beguiled by a fight over whether to apply language barring the use of funds for abortion.
"I had hoped to turn to her next week, but if we can't finish the trafficking bill, she will be put off again," McConnell said of the Lynch nomination on CNN's "State of the Union."
The Kentucky Republican also said that Lynch remains in line behind the trafficking bill, with consideration of the fiscal 2016 budget resolution to follow before the scheduled two-week recess. The Senate has been working through several lower-profile nominations by consent while the trafficking bill has been sitting on the floor, and it is possible to dual-track nominations and legislation.
"If they want to have time to turn to the attorney general next week, we need to finish up this human trafficking bill. It's extremely important for the country," McConnell said, adding in response to a question that the possibility of a further delay of Lynch's confirmation was "not a threat."
The Hyde amendment anti-abortion provision was already in the bill when it won unanimous approval of the Judiciary Committee, but Senate Democrats have said they and their staffers simply missed the language. The blockade on federal funding for abortion services has been a fixture in appropriations law for decades and also exists in other federal programs.
In this case, the objections from abortion rights groups and Democrats stem from application of the Hyde restrictions to a fee-based compensation fund.
In a statement responding to McConnell, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the No. 3 Democratic leader, rejected the idea that Lynch should face a delay over the trafficking bill.
"For months and months, Republicans have failed to move forward with her nomination using any excuse they can, except for any credible objection to her nomination itself. It's time for Republicans to stop dragging their feet on Loretta Lynch. Loretta Lynch, and the American people, don't deserve this," the New York Democrat said. "At a time when terrorists from ISIS to Al-Shabaab threaten the United States, the nominee to be attorney general deserves an up or down vote."
Related: Little Hope for Bipartisanship With Lynch, Budget Ahead Senate Democrats Press McConnell to Schedule Lynch Confirmation Vote (Updated) Reid: No Amendments Until GOP Strips Abortion Language (Video) (Updated) The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.