November 03, 2021

SFRC Approves 14 Critical Foreign Policy Nominations

Committee Democrats Call out Republicans' Obstructionism of Critical State Department Nominations

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below remarks following the Committee’s approval of 14 State Department, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and other critical national security nominations at today’s committee business meeting. The nominations now move favorably to the Floor for consideration by the full Senate.

 

“I am pleased that we have 14 nominees that moved [out of committee] today, both for critical positions at the State Department and USAID, as well as embassies around the world. They are all well-qualified, deserving of their nominations and I hope we can move them on the Floor swiftly,” said Chairman Menendez. “The slate of nominees that we moved today is representative of the quality of Biden administration nominations overall – individuals who are highly-qualified who I believe will be superb representatives of the United States. Filling these critical positions is in our national security interests, and I believe, it is simply that clear. Unfortunately, the previously routine process of getting qualified nominees, hearings, and Committee votes is like pulling teeth.”

Led by Chairman Menendez, Senate Democrats have launched a months-long campaign to try to break through Senate Republicans’ blockade of critical national security nominations. The Chairman has repeatedly condemned his colleagues’ continued obstructionism, which has resulted in unprecedented delays that continue to threaten our national security and undermine our interests. Senate Democratic members of the Committee today spoke up as a united front to reiterate their frustration with Republican’s political games with non-controversial, qualified nominees. Today’s business meeting follows Republican’s obstruction on the Senate Floor last night of the confirmation of Ambassadors to NATO and Israel, among others. See more on the Chairman’s efforts on the Senate Floor hereherehere, and here.

 

Citing Republicans’ continued effort to prevent hearings and votes on the Biden administration’s nominees including those for ambassador to Germany, U.S. Special Envoy for anti-Semitism, and senior roles at USAID, Menendez closed his remarks at today’s business meeting with a call for consistency and respect for the way the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has historically worked under the norms of comity for decades:

 

“Now, I could understand [Republicans’] refusal to clear nominees if, like Senator Risch when he was Chair, I had broken comity. But that is not the case.  To the contrary, I have bent over backwards, despite all kinds of obstacles, to work with the Ranking Member and have noticed only those nominees that he has cleared. I repeat: every single nominee who has had a hearing or a business meeting vote this Congress has been with the explicit approval of the Ranking Member.  But I would ask the Ranking Member: does he not share the urgency to get these critical foreign affairs and national security positions filled? Why the delays? Why the obstacles?,” concluded Senator Menendez.

 

Below is a list of the nominations approved by the committee today: 

 

1. Ms. Lisa A. Carty, of Maryland, to be Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador, and to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during her tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

 

2. The Honorable Barbara A. Leaf, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Near Eastern Affairs)

 

3. Ms. Elizabeth Anne Noseworthy Fitzsimmons, of Delaware, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Togolese Republic

 

4. The Honorable David R. Gilmour, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea

 

5. The Honorable Patricia Mahoney, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Central African Republic

 

6. The Honorable Peter Hendrick Vrooman, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mozambique

 

7. Mr. Peter D. Haas, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People's Republic of Bangladesh

 

8. Ms. Julie Chung, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

 

9. Dr. Atul A. Gawande, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development

 

10. Mr. Brian Wesley Shukan, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Benin

 

11. Mr. Jonathan Eric Kaplan, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore

 

12. The Honorable R. Nicholas Burns, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People's Republic of China

 

13. The Honorable Rahm Emanuel, of Illinois, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Japan

 

14. The Honorable Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Spain, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Principality of Andorra

 

Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s opening statement as delivered below:

 

“I am pleased that we have 14 nominees that moved today, both for critical positions at the State Department and USAID, as well as embassies around the world. They, I believe, are all well-qualified, deserving of their nominations and I hope we can move them on the floor swiftly.

 

The slate of nominees that we moved today is representative of the quality of Biden administration nominations overall – individuals who are highly-qualified who I believe will be superb representatives of the United States. Filling these critical positions is in our national security interests, and I believe, it is simply that clear.

 

Unfortunately, the previously routine process of getting qualified nominees, hearings, and Committee votes is like pulling teeth.

 

I have been trying for some time to schedule a hearing for the nominee to be Ambassador to Germany – we need a U.S. ambassador in Berlin, so I identified this nomination as a top priority in early August – but the Minority is refusing to clear a hearing.

 

I have been trying to schedule a hearing for the USAID Middle East position. We cannot ignore a region that is perpetually in crisis, so I identified this nomination as a priority in early August, but the Minority is blocking this hearing as well, and then there is the nominee to be the special envoy for anti-Semitism.

 

The Minority has refused to grant her a hearing apparently because there is concern about her tweets calling out the use of anti-Semitic tropes. Let’s think about that for a minute. We don’t want the person nominated to advance our global efforts against anti-Semitism to call out anti-Semitism? I sincerely hope that this is not the position of the Minority, and that we can move these nominees forward expeditiously.

 

I also note that there are nominees ready for a Committee vote who the Minority won’t clear. The tradition of this Committee has always been to try to put nominees expeditiously on a business meeting agenda for an up or down vote if they have turned in their QFRs. Yet, that is not happening. Take Sarah Margon or Mallory Stewart, two qualified nominees for important assistant secretary positions. They have responded fully to hundreds of QFRs – and they did so in time to be put on the last business meeting, yet the Minority refused to allow a vote when we last met for that business meeting. 

 

Now, I could understand this refusal to clear nominees if, like Senator Risch when he was Chair, I had broken comity. But that is not the case.

 

To the contrary, I have bent over backwards, despite all kinds of obstacles, to work with the Ranking Member and have noticed only those nominees that he has cleared. I repeat: every single nominee who has had a hearing or a business meeting vote this Congress has been with the explicit approval of the Ranking Member.

 

But I would ask the Ranking Member: does he not share the urgency to get these critical foreign affairs and national security positions filled? Why the delays? Why the obstacles?

 

I know that Senator Risch, in justifying repeatedly breaking comity last Congress, you told the Committee that you believed in getting the facts out there at a hearing and letting the members decide.

 

I would ask that you live by your own standard and that you give these nominees their day before the Committee. If you or other members want to vote against them, as we just had a series of votes against some of these nominees, so be it, but let’s get it done. They deserve hearings and Committee votes, not months of delay.

 

We owe it to the American people and to our national security. So I’d ask you and urge you to commit today—here at this meeting – to hearings the week of November 15th for at least Dr. Amy Gutmann, Deborah Lipstadt, Tamara Wittes, and Ambassador John Bass, and to agreeing to Committee votes in short order after the hearings.

 

I similarly ask you to commit to votes on Mallory Stewart and Sarah Margon.

 

So, I hope we can get those commitments and we can break this log jam, and move forward. They have answers hundreds of QFRs, they have answered hundreds of revised requests to QFRs, they have done everything they can to be poised at least for a hearing and, or a Committee vote.

 

We should give them that opportunity and let the chips where they fall where they may. Senator Risch?”

 

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