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Menendez Opening Remarks at Nominations Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON — Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following opening statement at this morning’s committee hearing on the nominations of Ashok Michael Pinto to be United States Alternate Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, William Todd to be Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and Eric Ueland to be an Under Secretary of State (Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights). 

Below are the Senator’s remarks as delivered:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ambassador Todd, I am eager to hear your vision for our relationship with Pakistan as the region goes through a potentially historic transformation with the peace process in Afghanistan.  

While we hope for forward progress with Pakistan, we must be clear-eyed about the significant challenges in the relationship, including the stubborn presence of terrorist groups in the country, tensions with India, treatment of religious minorities and concerns about Pakistan’s growing nuclear stockpile.  

I remain deeply concerned about the prevalence of terrorist groups in the country and their impact on the region. Progress has been made, but Pakistan must take further action to address this insidious threat, especially Lashkar-e-Taiba. For too long this group has been able to operate in different forms over the years. If Pakistan wants us to take its counter-terrorism commitments seriously, it must completely eradicate this group.  

In addition, I have grown increasingly concerned about the plight of religious minorities in the country and call upon the Pakistani authorities to respect religious rights of all in the country. 

Finally, I do feel compelled to note that your nomination has received some unusual attention for a career nominee. We have received some strong recommendations of support and, at the same time, others have voiced significant opposition based on your performance as a senior management official at State. We are not in a position to get to the bottom of all of this, but I believe it is important for members of the Committee to be aware. 

Mr. Ueland, my impression is that you are an intelligent person, but that alone is not a qualification to be the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights. 

I am sorry to say that Mr. Ueland’s nomination appears to be another case of the Trump administration playing musical chairs with senior positions at the State Department. 

The President originally nominated Mr. Ueland to be Under Secretary for Management, but that nomination did not move forward because of concerns from then-Chairman Corker. In August of 2018, the President nominated Marshall Billingslea to be Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights but that nomination failed due to Mr. Billingslea’s support for torture. Now, Mr. Billingslea is nominated for another Under Secretary position, and you, Mr. Ueland, have taken his place. 

There is an element of farce to this, but I, for one, am not amused. These are serious jobs that require subject-matter expertise and experience. I recognize that you are well-versed on budget matters, including a short stint at the State Department, but this is not a budget job. This is about enhancing our own security by helping others build more just, more humane, and more democratic societies. 

These very principles are under assault by autocratic leaders around the world, many of them coddled by President Trump, and, as so many in this country and around the globe have witnessed with horror, the President is doing his best to trash them here at home too.  

We have learned that the President expressed approval of concentration camps in Xinjiang. His administration has: intentionally separated migrant children from their parents; denied individuals their right to seek asylum; downplayed human rights abuses in countries like North Korea to the Persian Gulf; coddled a dictator who ordered the brutal murder of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi; actively rolled back reproductive health care at home and abroad; verbally attacked the principle of freedom of the press; assaulted peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights; and undermined the rule of law in countless ways. Sadly, the list goes on and on.

Do you agree with these actions, Mr. Ueland? Is this your vision of America? If you are confirmed, you will be defending these atrocities and advancing others all indelible stains on our national character.  

Finally, I do look forward to hearing from Mr. Pinto about how he plans to use his position to advocate for the United States and ensure the continuation of the critical work that the World Bank does across the world – especially at a time when COVID-19 has ravaged the globe.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”