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Amendment Logjam Stalls Lynch Confirmation (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Loretta Lynch’s confirmation for attorney general remained mired in amendment purgatory on Tuesday afternoon, after a morning full of promise. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier Tuesday an agreement on contentious abortion language in a human-trafficking bill would allow for Lynch’s confirmation — which is expected to have the required number of votes — in the “next day or two.”  

But with negotiators still hammering out amendments by the afternoon, Democrats complained of a lengthy and contentious process.  

Democrats were specifically concerned with non-germane amendments related to immigration, particularly one floated months ago by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., which would eliminate birthright citizenship to eliminate birth tourism, in which some foreign nationals time their visits to the U.S. so that their children are born here, making the children citizens.  

"Now the question is, on this bill, are we going to have a dozen amendments?” Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., asked. “For example, one senator from Louisiana has not taken the basic course in constitutional law. He thinks he can amend the Constitution on the floor of the Senate, which you can't do.”  

Aides for Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican whip, would not specify which amendments were still being considered. But Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters a list he had seen earlier that day included “numerous” amendments involving immigration.  

"They can't get over offering a bunch of amendments, most of which, as I've seen them, are not germane,” Reid said. “Now, we're not going to be filibustering any of their amendments, but ... we're not going to be rushed through not having a good debate on these amendments, some of which are very egregious."  

Only hours earlier, senators from both parties heralded agreement on a contentious anti-abortion provision in the underlying sex-trafficking bill.  

The deal allowed both sides to claim victory: Republicans prevented any new funding that could go to abortions; Democrats prevented Hyde anti-abortion language from being extended beyond tax dollars to other funds. Instead, Democrats agreed to prevent criminal fines from being used for health purposes at all.  

“I’m glad we can now say there is a bipartisan proposal that would allow us to complete action on this important legislation,“ McConnell said.  

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., rejoiced that the Senate was working again, from passing a budget to dealing with changes to Medicare, while Reid said when Democrats and Republicans work together, “good things happen.”  

But by the afternoon, Reid sounded the alarm on amendments.  

"We're not out of the woods yet, and that's an understatement," he said.  

"The longer it takes to get through this bill ... the longer Loretta Lynch is stalled."  

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. 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.