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White House upset about Lynch confirmation delay

WASHINGTON — The White House blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday for holding up confirmation of President Barack Obama’s pick for attorney general, arguing the “unconscionable delay” was a stain on the Kentucky Republican’s leadership.

McConnell warned over the weekend that he wouldn’t hold a vote on Loretta Lynch’s confirmation before the Senate finishes a human trafficking bill that has hit a roadblock over a provision regarding funding for abortions. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the delay on the attorney general post reflected “inept leadership,” not a flaw in the trafficking bill.

“You’ve got to hand it to Republicans, that they’ve taken even a measure as common sense as that and turned it into a partisan controversy,” Earnest said. “That is not a reflection of a flaw in the bill. It’s a reflection of inept leadership.”

Although the White House frequently threatens to veto pending bills unpalatable to Obama, Earnest wouldn’t say whether Obama would sign the bill with the abortion language included. He suggested the issue is moot because Republicans don’t have enough support to pass it.

“The fact that leader McConnell can’t build bipartisan support for a child sex-trafficking bill, I think, is an indication that his leadership here in the majority is not off to a very strong start,” Earnest said.

In a sharp rebuke, the White House appeared to question whether Obama can trust McConnell and his fellow GOP leaders and “whether their word is good with the president.” Earnest pointed out that McConnell had argued last year that Lynch’s confirmation should wait until the new GOP-run Senate was seated in January, but was now claiming publicly that it was Democrats who prolonged the confirmation by waiting until 2015.

McConnell put a confirmation vote planned for this week on hold after Senate debate on the trafficking bill broke down. Democrats made a late objection to a provision that prohibits money dedicated to a fund for victims from being used to pay for abortions except in very limited circumstances. Similar abortion funding restrictions have been in place for decades, but abortion-rights supporters said the legislation goes further.

“If they want to have time to turn to the attorney general bill next week, we need to finish up this human trafficking bill,” McConnell said Sunday on CNN.