December 17, 2021

Chairman Menendez Continues Push to Break Senate Republicans’ Obstruction of Critical Foreign Policy Nominees

On Senator Cruz’s Blanket Hold on Key Nominations: “So supposedly, these people are being held up in pursuit of some national security initiative, and yet we are putting all these other national security initiatives at risk in order to deal with one person's vision of the world and what should be done. I don't understand that logic… I did not come to the Senate to fight about nominations... I don’t think most of our colleagues did either. I urge my colleagues - let's move forward.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today again took to the Senate Floor to demand the Senate approve a host of key national security nominations that remain stuck in the Senate due to Republican’s treatment of ambassadorial nominations as political pawns. Following last night’s confirmation of three senior State Department and USAID nominations, Democrats are continuing their push to force confirmation votes on as many national security nominations as possible before the Senate adjourns.    

“Let’s face it: There is little to celebrate when it comes to nominations in the Senate,” Chairman Menendez said, “We came here to work for our constituents, to find solutions that move this country forward, and to make a positive difference. We need to re-dedicate ourselves to making the Senate work, to fulfilling the constitutional duty of advice and consent. ... You don't want to vote for them, don't vote for them. That's fine. But don't stop the process of advice and consent that ultimately is needed to put these people in the positions that are critical to the national security of the United States.”

Led by Chairman Menendez, Senate Democrats’ launched a months-long campaign to try to break through Senate Republicans’ blockade of critical nominations causing an unprecedented threat to U.S. national security and interests. Democratic senators have spoken up to reiterate their frustration with Republican’s political games with non-controversial, qualified nominees. See more on the Chairman’s efforts on the Senate Floor herehereherehere, and here.

Find a full list of nominations expected to receive cloture votes today below:

1.         Executive Calendar #528 Atul Atmaram Gawande, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

2.         Executive Calendar #577 Linda Lopez, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of California. 

3.         Executive Calendar #579 Jinsook Ohta, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of California.

4.         Executive Calendar #580 David Herrera Urias, of New Mexico, to be United States District Judge for the District of New Mexico.

5.         Executive Calendar #574 Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Central District of California.

6.         Executive Calendar #487 Jane M. Beckering, of Michigan, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Michigan.

7.         Executive Calendar #488 Shalina D. Kumar, of Michigan, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan.

8.         Executive Calendar #575 Jennifer L. Thurston, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of California.

9.         Executive Calendar #578 Katherine Marie Menendez, of Minnesota, to be United States District Judge for the District of Minnesota.

10.       Executive Calendar #573 Mary Katherine Dimke, of Washington, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington.

11.       Executive Calendar #519 Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, of New York, to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of Spain, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador to the Principality of Andorra.

12.       Executive Calendar #526 Rahm Emanuel, of Illinois, to be Ambassador to Japan.

13.       Executive Calendar #446 Jack A. Markell, of Delaware, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of Ambassador.

14.       Executive Calendar #442 Bathsheba Nell Crocker, of the District of Columbia, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, with the rank of Ambassador.

15.       Executive Calendar #454 Mark Gitenstein, of Washington, to be Representative of the United States of America to the European Union, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.

16.       Executive Calendar #447 Denise Campbell Bauer, of California, to be Ambassador to the French Republic, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador to the Principality of Monaco.

17.       Executive Calendar #440 Claire D. Cronin, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador to Ireland.

18.       Executive Calendar #323 Marcela Escobari, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

19.       Executive Calendar #317 Marc Evans Knapper, of California, to be Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

20.       Executive Calendar #320 Rufus Gifford, of Massachusetts, to be Chief of Protocol, and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service.

21.       Executive Calendar #572 Gabriel Sanchez, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.

 

 

Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s remarks as delivered below.

 

“Mr. President, I rise to express my support for a number of foreign affairs nominations that should receive not just cloture votes today, but should receive votes on their nominations.

It is a long list including Dr. Atul Gawande to be Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Global Health at the United States Agency for International Development; Mark Gitenstein to be the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union; Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon to be Ambassador to Spain; Rahm Emanuel to be Ambassador to Japan; Governor Jack Markell to be U.S. Representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Marcela Escobari to be Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID; and Marc Knapper to be Ambassador to Vietnam.

Just think about it, Mr. President. Think about these assignments and what they mean to the United States.

These are quality nominees – people who will represent the United States at home and abroad with skill and dignity. I appreciate that the Majority Leader has made it a priority to confirm them prior to the end of the session, and I encourage all of my colleagues to support their nominations.

But let’s face it. There is little to celebrate when it comes to nominations in the Senate. The truth is that some Republicans’ unprecedented obstructionism is straining the system to the breaking point, leaving the President without a team of national security positions that are critical to the interests of the United States and the American people, leaving our nation weakened.

I’ll talk a little bit about that as it relates to these nominees.

I am thrilled that we are voting on the nomination of Dr. Atul Gawande. His medical background and track record in public health are impressive, and he is clearly superbly qualified for the role of Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Global Health at USAID.

But it should not take this long. Dr. Gawande was nominated five months ago, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic, a global pandemic, and he will be key to helping us fight COVID internationally. 

Do you think that our Republican colleagues would think it is urgent to get someone in a position that can help us to deal with the global COVID challenge?

Republicans should have been pressuring us move his nomination at lightning speed instead of slowing it at every turn.

Similarly, I am pleased to support Ambassador Gitenstein to be our point person in Brussels. He has had a long and distinguished career in both the public and private sectors, including previously as U.S. Ambassador to Romania, and is deeply committed to strengthening transatlantic ties.

But he should have been in Brussels weeks ago. As the President is working tirelessly to ensure a strong and unified European reaction if Russian dares to invade Ukraine, he has to do so without an Ambassador to the European Union.

We want the European Union to be on our side and join with us in multilateral efforts to give Russia the consequences for any military action against Ukraine.

You need to have someone at the EU making the case.

Marcela Escobari experience and knowledge are desperately needed at USAID, where she would be be leading our efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean, regions that are facing immense challenges – from Haiti to Venezuela to the Northern Triangle.

She was confirmed by voice vote for this very same position in 2016, yet this time around her nomination has languished due to Republican holds.

We are worried about immigration, undocumented immigrants coming to the country. If you don’t have someone to help create stability in Haiti, guess what? You’re going to see a lot more people at the southern border. If we don’t deal with the Northern Triangle, we are going to continue to have a challenge. If we don’t deal with the humanitarian challenges of the dictatorship in Venezuela, we are going to continue to see a challenge there.

Shouldn’t we the person in charge of these challenges so that our national interests are protected?

Look at the other nominees. Spain. Spain – one of the Spaniards – happens to be the head right now of the EU’s basically Secretary of State, their Foreign Minister.

Wouldn’t it be great to have an American Ambassador in Spain pressing both the Spanish and that Foreign Minister on the questions of Ukraine, on the questions of Venezuela, on the questions of Cuba? I could go on and on.

But we have nobody in Spain, and Spain hasn’t been the most forward-leaning as we'd like to see them, even though they're involved heavily in our hemisphere. But we have no one in Spain to make the case.

How about Japan? As we are trying to meet the challenge of China in that part of the world, we have no one in Japan to help galvanize the challenges that we want to meet as it relates to China.

No one. We have a new Prime Minister in Japan. It would be great to have somebody on the ground already engaging with the Japanese in coordination with the Quad as we deal with the challenges of China. And I hear a lot of talking about China, but here we are, when we can do something about it, and we have nothing.

Marc Knapper to be the Ambassador to Vietnam, a country that is feeling the pressures and coercion of China economically and otherwise. Wouldn't it be great to have a U.S. Ambassador there to help proselytize Vietnam into our orbit as they meet the challenges of China in the days ahead?

So, supposedly, these people are being held up in pursuit of some national security initiative, and yet we are putting all these other national security initiatives at risk in order to deal with one person's vision of the world and what should be done.

I don't understand that logic. I don't know how – supposedly to promote the national interests of the United States and its security – you then create a series of risks for the united States and its national security around the globe.

That's what's happening, Mr. President. That's what's happening. It's pretty outrageous. Now, I'm in pain here, but these nominations have to get done. They have to get done. So, if we're going to stay here, we're going to stay here, but these nominations have to get done.

These people need to be in their positions so that we are not going to be in pain around the globe. Something's going to happen in one of these places and we will not be there to ultimately have someone to promote our interests and to protect ourselves.

Let me close by saying I did not come to the Senate to fight about nominations. Certainly not what I did when I aspired to come to the Senate. I don’t think most of our colleagues did either.

We came here to work for our constituents, to find solutions that move this country forward, and to make a positive difference. We need to re-dedicate ourselves to making the Senate work, to fulfilling the constitutional duty of advice and consent.

We are not fulfilling our constitutional duty of advice and consent in this manner.

I didn't agree with President Trump on a lot of his foreign policy decisions, but I voted for a lot of his nominees, and I didn't hold them up in any way, shape, or form as we are seeing in this unprecedented fashion. A president needs qualified people to help the nation confront the challenges we face.

I urge my colleagues – let's move forward. Let's expeditiously get these nominees out. You don't want to vote for them, don't vote for them. That's fine. But don't stop the process of the advice and consent that ultimately is needed to put these people in the positions that are critical to the national security of the United States. With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.”

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