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Senate Latinos Split on Lynch Vote; Cruz Skips It

Image: File photo of Loretta Lynch testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington
Loretta Lynch is sworn in to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on her nomination to be U.S. attorney general on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this January 28, 2015 file photo. The U.S. Senate could vote this week on Lynch's nomination, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on April 21, 2015, ending a month-long partisan impasse on an unrelated human trafficking bill that threatened to stall her confirmation indefinitely. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/FilesKEVIN LAM / Reuters
/ Source: NBC News

Two of three Latinos in the U.S. Senate were split on the confirmation Wednesday of Loretta Lynch as attorney general, while the third Latino senator did not vote. Immigration was a key factor for the non-supporters.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., voted against her confirmation, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., voted for confirmation and Cruz did not vote on her confirmation.

Rubio,who is vying to be the first Hispanic president of the United States, voted against Lynch. She was confirmed 55-43. The vote made her the first black woman in U.S. history to be the country's attorney general. Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American to hold the job, is stepping down.

Rubio said in a news release his vote against Lynch was based on what he said was "her failure to identify any limit on the president’s ability to ignore the laws passed by Congress as well as her obvious enthusiasm for civil asset forfeiture."

Rubio gave the example of Lynch's testimony in her nomination hearing that the president's support of use of prosecutorial discretion in immigration enforcement was reasonable.

"I regret that Ms. Lynch failed to demonstrate that, if confirmed, she would be willing to tell the president that there are some things that he simply does not have the constitutional power to do,” Rubio stated.

Related: Loretta Lynch Confirmed By Senate As Attorney General

Cruz, who like Rubio is also hoping he'll win the GOP's presidential primary and go on to be the first Hispanic president, did not vote. He spoke on the Senate floor against her nomination, Holder and Obama, before the vote. He criticized Lynch for considering as reasonable "Obama's illegal executive amnesty."

Cruz said her responses to questions at her nomination hearing "rendered her unsuitable for attorney general of the United States ... She chose to embrace the lawlessness of the Holder Justice Department," he said.

Catherine Frazier said Cruz had campaign events Thursday night in Dallas, including a fundraiser. She said he voted on whether to allow cloture, the procedure that allows Lynch's nomination to move forward to the final confirmation vote. Cruz voted against the nomination advancing. Frazier said that was the "vote that mattered."

"Sen. Cruz led the charge to oppose her nomination at every turn for the last several months," Frazier said.

Rick Tyler, Cruz's spokesman, told the Washington Post that Cruz was present for an earlier vote on whether to allow Lynch's nomination to get a final vote, a procedure known as cloture. He voted against advancing her nomination to the confirmation vote, which Tyler said was the "vote that mattered." But Tyler wouldn't say why Cruz missed the final vote, the Post reported. Cruz was to be in Las Vegas later Thursday for a meeting with the Republican Jewish Coalition, according to the Post.

Menendez of New Jersey, who is the only Latino Democrat in the chamber, voted for Lynch's confirmation.

Menendez, who is facing corruption charges filed by the Department of Justice, which Lynch will head, praised Lynch's strong leadership and record on civil and constitutional rights for underrepresented groups." Menendez has pleaded innocent to the charges against him.

“Loretta Lynch is a deeply respected and qualified nominee whose confirmation should have never fallen prey to partisan politics," said Menendez.

Lynch's nomination had been held up by a dispute over abortion funding in separate legislation addressing human trafficking and a squabble over attaching immigration-related amendment to that bill.