Chairman Menendez Calls on Senate to Confirm U.S. Ambassadorial Nominees; Republicans Reject Request
Menendez: “Confirmation by crisis is not a strategy and not in the national security interest of the United States.”
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Washington, DC – Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for the immediate confirmation of 25 ambassadorial nominees, all career Foreign Service Officers, during the final hours of the Senate’s legislative session – a request that was rejected outright by Republicans on the Senate floor.
Republican obstructionism resulted in the continued and growing backlog of countries and postings where the United States does not have an ambassador in place, now totaling over 50. Included in this list are important countries where our national security is threatened, where U.S. companies are trying to compete to sell goods and create jobs back home, or countries that are key allies who are fighting alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan and cooperating with us in stopping terrorists around the world before they have a chance to try to wage attacks against the U.S.
Chairman Menendez noted that where ambassadorial vacancies exist in foreign countries or in international organizations, nominees are only approved lately in the Senate by Republicans in response to an international crisis, or a Presidential visit to a nation lacking a confirmed ambassador.
“Confirmation by crisis is not a strategy and not in the national security interest of the United States,” Menendez said. “No nation can listen to us if we are not present to speak.”
“On a Thursday, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine,” Menendez noted. “On the following Monday, the Senate confirmed Michael Lawson as the U.S. Ambassador to the International Civil Aviation Organization. On his first day on the job, his first time meeting his staff and his colleagues, Lawson will be forced to grapple with this crisis.”
Despite the strong Republican opposition to Chairman Menendez’s request that the Senate approve the nominations, the objection to Ambassador John Tefft, who will serve in Russia, was eventually lifted and the former longstanding and admired career diplomat was confirmed to serve in the Moscow posting late Thursday evening.
Below are excerpts from Chairman Menendez’s speech calling on the Senate to confirm ambassadorial nominees:
“I rise again in support of all the career foreign service officers whose nominations have been held up in the Chamber until there a crisis somewhere in the world – until there is a Presidential or Vice Presidential trip to some part of the world that suddenly demands our attention, and then, miraculously, holds are lifted and nominees are approved.”
“It took the President to travel to Saudi Arabia and the Vice President to travel to Chile for the Senate to confirm the nominees to these countries. In the case of Chile, Ambassador Hammer was taken to his new office in Santiago for his first day on the job on Air Force Two because the Senate approved his nomination just before the Vice President was to visit Chile. M. President, It shouldn’t require flying on Air Force Two to get to your posting for your first day of work as a United States Ambassador.”
“Take the case of our ambassador to Qatar. She waited for months -- and then Sgt. Bergdahl was exchanged for 5 Guantanamo detainees released to Qatar and – suddenly –she was approved. It almost required the President to be wheels-up on Air Force One -- on his way to Riyadh – before we confirmed an ambassador to Saudi Arabia. I repeat -- the criteria for confirming nominees should not be determined by a sudden, just breaking crisis, with the urgent need to fill that vacant post. Confirmation by crisis is not a strategy and not in the national security interest of the United States.”
“The Foreign Relations Committee has moved judiciously but with record setting speed to confirm nominees. In the face of obstructionism on the floor of the Senate, the SFRC has proven that bi-partisanship is not only possible, but it can thrive when American national security interests are put first.”
“We must lift up our Ambassadors and their families, not put them down. These individuals are serving our nation and their families are sacrificing for our nation. They deserve better. Our career Foreign Service Officers serve Democratic and Republican presidents - and they should not – the must not -- be treated as political pawns. We cannot continue to allow the pulpits where we preach American values to remain vacant. No nation can listen to us if we are not present to speak. American leadership can only occur if American leaders are present on the international stage. And the Senate standoff that has left so many career foreign service nominees in political and personal limbo is damaging our credibility, undermining our national security, and it must end now.”