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update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Blinken claims Senate holding up yet-to-be-named Nides replacement

"By failing to confirm these nominees, a handful of senators are keeping our best players on the sidelines," said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels on March 4, 2022. Credit: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels on March 4, 2022. Credit: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefed the press in person on July 17 and scolded the Senate, which he said is holding up 38 nominees for diplomatic posts.

He told reporters that he wrote senators informing them about his “serious concern” about “significant delays” confirming U.S. State Department nominees, which “are undermining our national security” and “weakening our ability to deliver for the American people.”

By the end of the summer, “We expect Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon will all be without confirmed U.S. ambassadors,” Blinken said. “By failing to confirm these nominees, a handful of senators are keeping our best players on the sidelines.”

Matt Lee, diplomatic writer for the Associated Press, pushed back against Blinken, and subsequently in a briefing with Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesman.

“I wasn’t aware that the—has the White House nominated a replacement for Ambassador Nides?” Lee asked.

“I’ll come back to you with all of the folks that we’ve nominated or are about to be nominated,” Blinken said.

Lee asked the same question to Miller. “The secretary said by the end of the summer you won’t have confirmed ambassadors in Egypt, Israel, Jordan or Lebanon.  But I don’t think, unless I’m wrong—and please correct me if I’m wrong—that there has been anyone even nominated to replace Tom Nides,” he said.

“The point he was making is that we have,” Miller began. Lee cut in. “Oh. I get the point.”

The two talked over each other for a bit. “I mean, you can’t complain if you don’t have,” Lee began. “We, if, if we had a nominee today,” Miller said. Lee continued, “Maybe. But you don’t.”

“That nominee would still face the same blanket hold after that nominee went through the Senate, the regular process,” Miller continued.

“Has the—has the administration—has the White House nominated anyone?” Lee asked.

Miller said it has not. “If you look at the situation as it exists currently, all the nominees that start today are still backlogged based on what’s happening in the floor,” he said. “There’s a—there is a huge backlog.”

Miller noted that Nides had just stepped down in the last two weeks.

“But you’re complaining about something that’s going to happen later this summer, but you don’t even have anyone in the pipeline,” Lee said.

“I would be more than happy to withdraw the complaint if the Senate decides to start moving on our […] ambassadors expeditiously and we can count on the ambassador … nominee to Israel to be moved through unanimous consent, as these typically have been,” Miller said.

Lee tried to get a scoop about the nominee to replace Nides.

“I don’t think I should do that,” Miller said.

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