Washington: President Barack Obama urged his Republican foes in Congress to confirm his choice for the country`s next top law enforcement officer, accusing them of holding her "hostage" in their efforts to push other legislation.
In February, the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Loretta Lynch`s attorney general nomination, inching her closer to becoming the first African-American woman ever to hold the post.
Her nomination, currently pending before the full Senate, comes at a time of deep Republican animosity towards Obama`s immigration reform plan, which he introduced by executive order in November.
"You don`t hold attorney general nominees hostage for other issues," Obama told The Huffington Post online news outlet.
"This is our top law enforcement office. Nobody denies that she`s well-qualified. We need to go ahead and get her done."
Lynch, 55, would succeed Attorney General Eric Holder, a polarizing figure for Republicans who accuse him of being a rubber stamp for Obama policies.
Just this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Lynch`s nomination would not go up for a vote before the Republican-controlled Senate until the chamber passes human trafficking legislation.
Obama`s fellow Democrats are opposing anti-abortion language in the measure.
The president rejected suggestions that race played a role in delaying Lynch`s confirmation, blaming instead "Senate dysfunction" and "stubbornness on the part of Republicans to move nominees, period."
"What I do know is that she is eminently qualified. Nobody denies it," Obama said in the interview.
"Even the Republicans acknowledge she`s been a great prosecutor.
"Her integrity is unimpeachable. By all accounts, she`s a great manager... We need to go ahead and get this done."
Lynch earned high praise for cracking down on corruption and convicting terror suspects in her position as chief US attorney for the Eastern District of New York.In his weekly address Saturday, Obama praised Lynch as a "tough, fair, and independent attorney," and urged Congress to put politics aside and approve her appointment.
"By Monday, Loretta will have been languishing on the Senate floor for longer than the seven previous attorneys general combined," he said.
He condemned the Republicans for making her appointment "purely about politics," and blamed them for not making good on promises given when they took control of both houses of Congress in January.
"Republicans promised that Congress would function smoothly with them in charge. Here`s a small chance for them to prove it," he said.
"Congress should stop playing politics with law enforcement and national security. They should support good people in both parties who want to reform our criminal justice system."
Meantime, Obama said Holder has agreed to keep his post until his replacement is confirmed.
"The irony is, of course, that the Republicans really dislike Mr Holder," the president said on National Public Radio.
"If they really want to get rid of him, the best way to do it is to go ahead and get Loretta Lynch confirmed."