November 02, 2021

Senate Republicans Again Block Senate from Confirming Critical State Department Nominees

Nominations for Ambassadors to Israel and NATO among the dozens of posts being blocked by Senate GOP

WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today took to the Floor to make a series of motions seeking the Senate’s unanimous approval of nine highly-qualified foreign affairs nominees. All but one of the motions was blocked by Senate Republicans, prolonging an unprecedented nominations backlog for domestic political reasons and continuing to undermine the national security of the United States and our allies.

“Nominees who should be the face of the United States at international organizations – like the United Nations, NATO, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – are instead waiting for the Senate to act,” exclaimed Chairman Menendez, citing how every nominee he tried to confirm was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support. “And for all the talk of needing to work with our allies and partners, how does holding our nominees to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel or U.S. Ambassador to Canada actually advance United States interests?  It does not. It is seriously detrimental to our national security.”

 

Led by Chairman Menendez, Senate Democrats have launched a months-long campaign to try to break Senate Republicans’ blockade of critical national security nominations. See more hereherehere, and here. Menendez was joined on the Floor tonight by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who applauded his commitment to fully equipping the State Department and USAID so the government can pursue the foreign policy, development, and national security interests of the United States.

 

Menendez has repeatedly condemned Senate Republicans’ continued obstructionism of nominee confirmations, which has resulted in unprecedented delays that continue to threaten our national security and undermine our interests. Today’s Floor motions follow robust Committee activity in October to approve 33 State Department, USAID, and other critical foreign policy nominations, in addition to over a dozen others already being blocked by Senate Republicans on the Senate Floor.

 

SFRC Chairman Menendez made Senate Floor motions to immediately approve the following nominations, all of which were blocked:

 

  1. Michele Sison to be Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.
  2. Anne A. Witkowsky to be Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.
  3. Christopher P. Lu to be Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform, with the rank of Ambassador.
  4. Julieta Valls Noyes to be Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration.
  5. Julianne Smith to be U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the rank of Ambassador.
  6. Marcia Bernicat for Director General of the Foreign Service and the Chair of the Board of the Foreign Service.
  7. Thomas R. Nides to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
  8. Michael Carpenter, for U.S. Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with rank of Ambassador.

 

Chairman Menendez’s motion to confirm David L. Cohen to be U.S. Ambassador to Canada was not blocked.

 

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

 

“Mr. President, I rise today to seek unanimous consent for nine nominees to critical State Department posts. Each of them moved through the Foreign Relations Committee with bipartisan support, and the only reason the Senate has not confirmed them is due to the political obstinacy of a few of my Republican colleagues.

The evidence of this is that when we had a vote earlier today for the Assistant Administrator of USAID, it passed 59-40.

We have heard many complaints about the management of the State Department and the conduct of U.S. foreign policy in recent months. While the State Department is not a perfect institution – for that fact, no institution is – its leadership was decimated by the prior Administration. The Assistant Secretaries and Ambassadors who should be participating in the rebuilding of the institution and the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy are instead languishing on the Senate floor.

Dozens.

Nominees who should be the face of the United States at international organizations – like the United Nations, NATO, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – are instead waiting for the Senate to act. The Government of the People’s Republic of China is watching. Even though the majority of this body has recognized that the Government of China represents the greatest geopolitical challenge to the United States, we are letting China eat our lunch on the world stage. 

Our Republican colleagues have spoken at length in opposition to this Administration’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan. But they refuse to allow the Senate to vote on nominees who are critical to dealing with the refugee situation resulting from the U.S. withdrawal and the much-needed stabilization efforts – a withdrawal that was already pre-cooked by the Trump administration when it made a surrender deal with the Taliban that said ‘we will leave on a date certain.’ ‘We will release thousands of Taliban prisoners,’ which they did to the Taliban, who became fighting soldiers. ‘We ultimately will not only leave on a date certain, but have done nothing to get any of the promises that the Taliban made enforced, and we reduced our troop level dramatically.’ That is what President Biden inherited.

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.

The nominees being held by Republicans include the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations. That cannot stand.

And for all the talk of needing to work with our allies and partners, how does holding our nominees to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel or U.S. Ambassador to Canada actually advance United States interests?  It does not. It is seriously detrimental to our national security.”

###

Press Contact

Juan Pachon