WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s choice of Loretta Lynch to be the next U.S. attorney general got a boost on Thursday when Republican Senator Mark Kirk announced his support, possibly providing a crucial 51st vote for the embattled nominee.
“I am confident from my conversation with Loretta Lynch that she will be a valuable partner in confronting the gang violence that is robbing families of their children every day in Chicago,” Kirk, a senator from Illinois, said in a statement.
All 44 Senate Democrats and two independents are expected to vote for Lynch, who would be the first African-American woman to head the Justice Department.
Most Republicans are planning to vote against her to protest Obama’s November executive order easing the threat of deportation against 4.7 million undocumented immigrants.
Prior to Thursday, four Republicans indicated they would vote for Lynch’s nomination, and with Kirk, there potentially would be a majority in the Senate to confirm her.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put Lynch’s nomination on hold, however, until the Senate passes a domestic human trafficking bill that is being blocked by Democrats due to objections over anti-abortion language that has been attached to the measure.
It is not clear how long McConnell would hold off on a vote on Lynch if the impasse on the legislation is not broken following a spring recess that ends April 13.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lynch would replace retiring Attorney General Eric Holder.
Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Leslie Adler