Twenty Republicans including McConnell and his top two deputies, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) and Senate GOP Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) voted to advance Lynch.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) worked quietly to round up more than 60 votes to end a filibuster of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, Republican senators say.
After holding up Lynch’s confirmation vote for weeks, McConnell worked to ensure she would overcome a filibuster with a strong bipartisan vote, pitting him against Tea Party firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other conservatives.
Some GOP senators say McConnell wanted to avoid a battle over the “nuclear option,” the controversial tactic then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) employed in 2013 to reduce the threshold for ending a filibuster of most executive nominees from 60 votes to a simple majority.
One lawmaker said McConnell quietly talked to colleagues about voting to advance Lynch to a final up-or-down vote.
“He wanted to avoid the conundrum for having to decide whether to overturn the nuclear option,” the GOP senator said.
If the motion to end the filibuster passed with fewer than 60 votes, any senator could have challenged the ruling of the chair allowing debate to be cut short by a simple majority vote.
“It would have taken just one person to object to the ruling of the chair,” the lawmaker added. “It would have been very clumsy.”
“It’s a dicey thing,” said another Republican senator, who added that McConnell had good reason to avoid an open debate on Senate rules.