August 11, 2021

Senate Republicans Block Senate from Confirming Pending Nominations for State Department and USAID, Undermining American National Security

As Senate heads into August state work period, Republicans block nearly 30 motions by Chairman Menendez and Senator Murphy to clear nominee backlog for critical national security posts

WASHINGTON – In the early hours of this morning, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took to the Senate Floor immediately following budget reconciliation proceedings to make a series of motions seeking the Senate’s unanimous approval of nearly thirty highly-qualified foreign affairs and development nominees whose unwarranted delays in confirmation pose significant threats to United States national security. Foreign Relations Committee member Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined Menendez in trying to get the nominations approved, but every one of their motions was blocked by Senate Republicans.

“In the nearly 30 years I have been working on foreign policy, we have never faced such a confluence of global challenges: a once in a century global pandemic, climate change threatening stability, health, and safety around the world, fueling displacement and resource-driven conflicts, and great power competition from an increasingly emboldened China and Russia,” Chairman Menendez said. “But we cannot do that when we do not have empowered diplomats and development professionals in place to do so. I call on this body to confirm these nominees – all of whom the Foreign Relations Committee has moved with bipartisan support – to put the United States in the best position to advance our foreign policy, development, and national security priorities.”  

“The effect of holding up all of these nominees is to kneecap American national security. Never ever before has a president had so few nominees confirmed to key national security posts than this president,” Senator Murphy said. “I share this paralyzing fear that Senator Menendez expressed that something awful is going to happen without the kind of personnel that every president needs on post to do the job… We are talking about dozens of key national security posts that are left vacant because of the decision of one senator.”

Republicans’ focus on denying the State Department and USAID all the resources they need to effectively conduct American foreign policy, including qualified and capable staff, has no precedents. In noting the Biden administration cannot promote our foreign policy, protect American citizens, advocate for American businesses or advance American values without a robust diplomatic corps, Menendez added: “The Trump administration had its first ambassador confirmed at Day 62 of the Trump presidency. The Obama administration had its first ambassador confirmed at Day 73. The George W. Bush administration had its first ambassador confirmed at Day 75.  For the Clinton administration, it was Day 75.  For the George H.W. Bush administration, it was Day 83.  We are now more than 200 days into the Biden administration, and as of this moment, there is not a single confirmed State Department country ambassador. Not one.”

Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s Floor remarks as delivered at the bottom. Below is a full list of the nominees that were blocked.

  1. Larry Edward Andre Jr of Texas, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, to be Ambassador of the United States to Somalia  
  2. Elizabeth Moore Aubin, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to Algeria.
  3. Maria E. Brewer, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to the Kingdom of Lesotho.
  4. Christopher John Lamora, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to Cameroon.
  5. Tulinabo S. Mushingi, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to Angola and to serve concurrently as the Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe.
  6. Eugene S. Young, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of the Congo.
  7. Michele Jeanne Sison, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.
  8. Todd D. Robinson, of New Jersey, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
  9. Daniel J. Kritenbrink, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
  10. Marc Evans Knapper, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to Vietnam.
  11. 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.
  12. Christopher P. Lu, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
  13. Rufus Gifford, to be Chief of Protocol, with the rank of Ambassador.
  14. Brian A. Nichols, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
  15. Marcela Escobari, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
  16. Monica P. Medina, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
  17. Anne A. Witkowsky, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations
  18. Anne A. Witkowsky, to be Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.
  19. Mary Catherine Phee, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation, for a term expiring September 27, 2026.
  20. Mary Catherine Phee, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation, for a term expiring September 27, 2021.
  21. Mary Catherine Phee, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
  22. Lee Satterfield, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.
  23. Karen Erika Donfried, to be Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs and Eurasian Affairs.
  24. Jessica Lewis, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.
  25. Donald Lu, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs.
  26. Paloma Adams-Allen, to be a Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
  27. Isobel Coleman, to be a Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
  28. Brett M. Holmgren, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.

Chairman Menendez’s full remarks as delivered:

“Mr. President, I know the hour is late, but we have nearly thirty highly-qualified foreign affairs and development nominees who are languishing on the Senate floor. We have to confirm these nominees to fully equip the United States to pursue our foreign policy objectives and I will be asking unanimous consent to confirm each one.

My distinguished colleague from Connecticut, Senator Murphy, a member of the Committee, is here to join with me in this effort, and I know the presiding officer is also a distinguished member of the Committee.

In the nearly 30 years I have been working on foreign policy, we have never faced such a confluence of global challenges: a once in a century global pandemic, climate change threatening stability, health, and safety around the world, fueling displacement and resource-driven conflicts, and great power competition from an increasingly emboldened China and Russia.

We have the tools to confront these challenges – to promote American values and interests around the world to advance the safety, health, and economic wellbeing of all Americans.

But we cannot do that when we do not have empowered diplomats and development professionals in place to do so.

I call on this body to confirm these nominees – all of whom the Foreign Relations Committee has moved with bipartisan support  – to put the United States in the best position to advance our foreign policy, development, and national security priorities.

I am calling for confirmation of all of these nominees – those up for ambassadorships and senior State Department and USAID positions. We need them in place.  

The Trump administration had its first ambassador confirmed at Day 62 of the Trump presidency. The Obama administration had its first ambassador confirmed at Day 73. The George W. Bush administration had its first ambassador confirmed at Day 75.  For the Clinton administration, it was Day 75.  For the George H.W. Bush administration, it was Day 83. 

We are now more than 200 days into the Biden administration, and as of this moment, there is not a single confirmed State Department country ambassador. Not one.

And going back four Administrations, there is a precedent of moving a package of nominees before the August recess. Under George W. Bush the Senate confirmed a package of 81 nominees. During the Obama administration the Senate confirmed a package of 104 nominees. And during the Trump administration we confirmed a package of 75 nominees.

We should be ashamed of holding the record for the longest delay in fully equipping the State Department and USAID to pursue the foreign policy, development, and national security interests of the United States. Some members of this body call on the one hand for assertive American leadership on the global stage and at the same time they hold up these critical positions.

Many of these nominees are career diplomats – public servants who have dedicated their lives to advancing United States interests. They served under the Trump administration in the same way they will serve in the Biden administration – on behalf of the American people.

Many of my colleagues are rightly focused on effectively confronting Chinese malign influence. A fundamentally critical element of confronting China is empowered leadership in our diplomatic corps around the world. So let me be clear. Holding up diplomats to posts across Africa and the Western Hemisphere is effectively ceding influence to China and actively undermining U.S. national security interests.

I recently heard an anecdote from a diplomat in Cameroon. When he travels outside the capital city, Cameroonians will greet him with a ‘Ni-hao’ assuming that if he isn’t Cameroonian he must be Chinese.

Meanwhile we haven’t had an American ambassador in Cameroon in more than a year and the Foreign Relations Committee approved a career diplomat for the post by voice vote nearly a month ago. What could possibly be the rationale for holding him up?

Lastly, looking at the Department itself. Critical leadership positions remain held up. Many of my colleagues have dedicated a significant amount of their time over the past few years to combatting the flow of fentanyl into the United States. But here we have a hold on the career foreign service officer nominated to be the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement who would be leading the Department’s efforts to combat the flow of fentanyl. So which one do you want? The American people deserve better than this.

Now, I know we’re all tired of being here, and I want to salute and thank the reading clerks, the parliamentarian, the Democrat and Republican staff who are still here. But we feel compelled to go to and ask U.C. for each of these nominees. They all deserve to be confirmed tonight.”

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