WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today took to the Senate Floor to speak ahead of a series of votes to break Senate Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction of crucial national security nominees. After months of Republicans’ refusal to allow nominees through, Senate Democrats forced confirmation votes today on the appointments of Nicholas Burns to be Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, Ramin Toloui to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Economic and Business Affairs), and Rashad Hussain to be Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
“While it is positive that we are confirming these three nominees today and a few more I hope in the next day, I am deeply concerned that we have more than 50 nominees that will remain pending on the Senate Floor - having passed the Committee, almost all of them by strong bipartisan votes – that are subject to delays and obstacles,” Chairman Menendez said. “We are less safe when our national security agencies are so short-staffed. We owe it to the American people to fix this problem so that we can be represented abroad.”
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, which has resulted in unprecedented delays that threaten our national security and undermine our nation’s interests. Democratic senators have also 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 here, here, here, here, and here.
Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s remarks as delivered below.
“Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for the nominations of Ambassador Nicholas Burns to be Ambassador to China, Mr. Ramin Toloui to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, and Mr. Rashad Hussain to be Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
They are a superb group of highly-qualified nominees, deserving of the positions for which they have been nominated, and I’ll speak briefly about them.
Ambassador Burns is an outstanding public servant, one of the nation’s best, and I am pleased to support his nomination as the next Ambassador to China.
He has a long and distinguished record in public service, including as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under the Bush administration and US Ambassador to NATO.
If there’s a place where we need an Ambassador, it’s China. We spend so much time both in Committee and on the Floor hearing about the challenges of China but we don’t have a U.S. ambassador to help us meet those challenges.
It is no secret that the China of today is challenging the United States and destabilizing the international community in almost every dimension of power – political, diplomatic, economic, military, and even cultural. This is why Ambassador Burns’ experience and skills will be crucial as he confronts the monumental task ahead of him.
I am also pleased to be supporting Mr. Ramin Toloui’s nomination to be Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs at the State Department.
His experience and skillset, including as a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Finance, where he represented the United States in forums like the G7 and the G20, will be necessary in order to be an effective Assistant Secretary, especially one that will play such a critical role in our economic diplomacy vis-à-vis China and as we must reinvigorate the instruments of our economic diplomacy at home. I believe Mr. Toloui represents the importance of getting our economic statecraft right.
Lastly, I’m also pleased to support Mr. Rashad Hussain to be our Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
Throughout his impressive public service career, Mr. Hussain has demonstrated his strong commitment to protecting the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, including as the U.S. Special Envoy for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications where he led efforts to counter antisemitism and protect Christian minorities in Muslim-majority countries.
Religious freedom, like every human right, is universal, but for many people around the world, this right is out of reach, and religious persecution is on the rise. That is why it is important that we confirm Mr. Hussain.
While it is positive that we are confirming these three nominees today and a few more I hope in the next day, I am deeply concerned that we have more than 50 nominees that will remain pending on the Senate Floor - having passed the Committee, almost all of them by strong bipartisan votes – that are subject to delays and obstacles.
We are less safe when our national security agencies are so short-staffed. We owe it to the American people to fix this problem so that we can be represented abroad.
With that Mr. President, I yield the floor.”