(November 3, 2021 / JNS) U.S. President Joe Biden’s pick to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides was delayed from confirmation along with other U.S. State Department nominees due to objection from one Senate Republican.
Senate Foreign Relations chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) asked for unanimous consent for nine administration nominees, including Nides, late on Tuesday, but his attempts were rebuffed by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who said he was objecting on behalf of a number of his Republicans colleagues.
Prior to asking for unanimous consent, Menendez lamented the delays being caused by Senate Republicans preventing swift approval of the nominees, despite all having been overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Now, I have heard a lot about the handling of the situation in Afghanistan, but my colleagues refuse to allow the Senate to vote on nominees who are critical to dealing with the refugee situation resulting from that withdrawal and the much-needed stabilization efforts. … And for all the talk of needing to work with our allies and partners, how does holding our nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Israel or the U.S. Ambassador to Canada actually advance U.S. interests? It does not. It is seriously detrimental to our national security,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) followed Menendez on the floor, characterizing the opposition by Republicans as unprecedented, saying that “Senate Republicans have gone to great lengths to place pointless holds on over 100 of these nominees. The consequence is scores of empty desks in the State Department, and in our embassies and the Department of the Treasury and other agencies.”
Schumer added that at this point in the Trump administration, 32 ambassadors had been confirmed, despite misgivings from the Democrats, while Republicans had so far agreed to only four.
As Menendez requested approval by unanimous consent for the candidates, Hawley objected.
He said that it was Schumer’s own inability to get the nominees confirmed through the regular voting process that is delaying the nominees’ approval.
“Now, I agree that many of these nominees are important, and that is, in fact, one of the reasons we should have a vote on them. The Ambassador to NATO, for instance, as I am about to argue, is a very important position. And the positions that she takes, the arguments that she makes are very important, which is why we ought to go on the record and actually have a vote,” said Hawley.
Hawley did not object to David Cohen’s nomination as Ambassador to Canada.
According to Politico, Schumer’s reluctance to put the nominations for a vote on the Senate floor is to avoid using up valuable floor time, which he would prefer to be used to vote on more pressing legislation such as infrastructure funding, defense appropriations and the debt-ceiling increase in the very limited left on the Senate calendar.
Deborah Lipstadt, the administration’s choice to serve as Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism, has also yet to be confirmed.
The obstruction from Hawley was panned by the Democratic Majority for Israel.
“Sen. Hawley recently pontificated on what he perceives as the importance of masculinity—but he isn’t even man enough to offer an explanation for his reckless effort to block these eminently qualified leaders. Instead, he is simply objecting on behalf of unnamed ‘colleagues,’ ” Democratic Majority for Israel President Mark Mellman said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Make no mistake, opposing swift Senate confirmation of Mr. Nides and Dr. Lipstadt is not a pro-Israel position. Indeed, further delay damages the U.S.-Israel alliance at a critical moment and hurts the battle against anti-Semitism as it rises to increasingly dangerous levels. … We strongly urge Sen. Hawley to stop playing politics with these highly qualified nominees and encourage Republicans to swiftly approve these vital nominations.”
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