White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called out Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Thursday after Grassley blamed Democrats for not confirming Loretta Lynch while they controlled the Senate.
Earnest accused Grassley of being "duplicitous" when he said earlier this week that Democrats could have confirmed Lynch in December before they handed over control of the Senate to Republicans. Last year, Grassley had urged Democrats to wait until Republicans took control of the Senate before beginning Lynch's confirmation hearings.
During the White House press briefing on Thursday, Earnest said Grassley made an "astounding display of duplicity," which he said was sad because Grassley had a reputation as "somebody who is true to his word." Earnest also suggested that perhaps Grassley, who was first elected to the House in 1974 and the Senate in 1980, had been in Washington too long.
Earlier this week, Grassley said that Democrats could have confirmed Loretta Lynch in last year if they had wanted to. But back in September, Grassley urged Democrats to wait until Republicans had control of the upper chamber.
“Rather than rush a nominee through the Senate in a lame-duck session, I hope the president will now take his time to nominate a qualified individual who can start fresh relationships with Congress so that we can solve the problems facing our country,” Grassley said in September.
In a statement, Grassley spokesperson Beth Levine said that the White House was "rewriting history." Democrats, she said, could have confirmed Lynch last year, but instead chose to push through federal judges.
"If nothing else, the White House certainly is good at rewriting history. The fact of the matter is that when Eric Holder announced his intention to step down in September, Senate Democrats had a 55 seat majority. If you believe the White House and Senate Democrats had Republicans’ best interests in mind when they delayed consideration of the Lynch nomination last fall, you hadn’t watched how Harry Reid ran the Senate," Levine said. " It was abundantly clear then – just as it is now – that Senate Democrats’ priorities didn’t include the Lynch nomination."
It has been 159 days since Obama nominated Lynch to replace Attorney General Eric Holder. While the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send Lynch's nomination to the full Senate in February, Earnest said on Thursday that she has waited longer than the last seven Attorney General nominees combined for the full body to confirm her. On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that he would try to force a vote on Lynch's nomination.
Republicans have refused to move on Lynch's nomination until a standoff over an anti-sex trafficking bill is resolved. Democrats have refused to support the bill because it contains anti-abortion language.
This story has been updated to include comment from a Grassley spokesperson.