— -- The Senate narrowly confirmed Loretta Lynch as the next attorney general today, 166 days after she was first nominated for the post.
The Senate approved Lynch’s nomination with a vote of 56 to 43.
After her conformation, President Obama said "America will be better off for it."
He added: "As head of the Justice Department, she will oversee a vast portfolio of cases, including counterterrorism and voting rights; public corruption and white-collar crime; judicial recommendations and policy reviews – all of which matter to the lives of every American, and shape the story of our country."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, missed the vote because of scheduling conflicts, including a fundraiser in Dallas, his office said. Cruz, the only absent senator, had voted against Lynch in a procedural vote earlier in the day.
The Senate took more than five months to confirm Lynch after her nomination was mired in political fights. Obama nominated Lynch shortly after Republicans won control of the Senate in the mid-term elections in November and, in a gesture of goodwill, Democrats offered to wait to consider Lynch’s nomination until Republicans took control in January.
But Lynch, 55, quickly became trapped in political fights between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate over issues like the president’s immigration executive actions and an anti-human trafficking bill.
Republicans insisted the human trafficking bill be passed before a vote on Lynch’s nomination. On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed the measure to help victims of human trafficking with a vote of 99 to 0 after Democrats and Republicans struck a deal on a controversial abortion funding restriction including in the measure.
Lynch, a North Carolina native who serves as a U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will be the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general.
Her confirmation period was the longest of any attorney general nominee in recent history. Two other attorney generals waited longer than Lynch: Edwin Meese, who was confirmed under President Ronald Reagan, waited 386 days, while Mitchell Palmer waited 182 days before confirmation during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency.