WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today took to the Senate Floor to make a series of motions for the Senate to confirm ten highly-qualified foreign affairs and development nominees whose confirmations have been blocked by Senate Republicans for months to prevent the Biden Administration from fully staffing the State Department and USAID. Every one of Senator Menendez’s ten live Unanimous Consent requests were blocked by Republican Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Today’s motions follow Chairman Menendez’s previous efforts over the course of the last several months (here, here and here) to address the unprecedented nominee backlog that continues to undermine American interests and jeopardize national security.
“Let me be clear: Holding up our diplomats is effectively ceding influence to China and actively undermining U.S. national security interests,” Chairman Menendez said, noting the United States’ ability to confront challenges posed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China as among the foreign policy priorities that have been threatened by delays in confirmation. “These individuals are critical to confronting numerous other global challenges, promoting American values, and advancing the safety, health, and economic well-being of Americans. We need them confirmed today.”
In response to Republican’s latest excuse for continuing to block the Senate’s business of confirming nominees due to the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, Chairman Menendez added: “The senator from Missouri wants accountability? That's fine. But a slew of career foreign service officers who had absolutely nothing to do with whatever decisions were made in Afghanistan, that's where the accountability is going to come from?...These aren’t political nominees. These are career foreign service officers!… Not only is this shortsighted, but this hurts the national security of the United States.”
Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s Floor remarks as delivered at the bottom. Below is a full list of the nominees whose confirmation was requested by unanimous approval.
• Paloma Adams-Allen, to be a Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development
• Isobel Coleman, to be a Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development
• Marcela Escobari, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development
• 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
• Eugene S. Young, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of the Congo
• Larry Edward Andre Jr. of Texas, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, to be Ambassador of the United States to Somalia
• Elizabeth Moore Aubin, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to Algeria
• Maria E. Brewer, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to the Kingdom of Lesotho
• Christopher John Lamora, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to Cameroon
• Marc Evans Knapper, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be Ambassador of the United States to Vietnam
Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s full remarks as delivered below.
“Mr. President, we heard over the course of many hours last week, and indeed, over the many months that foreign affairs nominees have been languishing on the Senate Floor, the concerns of the junior Senator from Texas related to the NordStream 2 pipeline. We have also heard at length from members of this body about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, from the junior Senator from Missouri.
As I have said publicly and repeatedly, I share my colleague’s concerns about the NordStream 2 pipeline. He put up a series of my quotes. They are all true. I am still of that view. But I am not of the view that you stop the national security apparatus in order to pursue a policy difference and create a whole host of other serious risks for the United States.
I believe – and have said – that the evacuation from Afghanistan was fatally flawed. In fact, the Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing and heard from Secretary Blinken about the situation in Afghanistan. The Foreign Relations Committee is holding a briefing tomorrow about the Administration’s efforts to bolster European energy security and to counter Russia’s efforts in this area. I intend to continue oversight of the situation in Afghanistan and why, over the course of twenty years. we failed.
What I fail to understand is the relation between the foreign affairs nominees pending before this body and those topics. These individuals are critical to confronting numerous other global challenges, promoting American values, and advancing the safety, health, and economic well-being of Americans. We need them confirmed today.
I therefore rise to seek unanimous consent for the confirmation of 10 nominees, including 7 career diplomats. Each of them moved through the Foreign Relations Committee with bipartisan support. There is no reason for Republicans to block their confirmation.
Let me speak to them for a minute or two.
This is especially the case at the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Administrator of USAID, Samantha Power, is the only member of that agency’s senior leadership who has been confirmed by this body.
Administrator Power needs her senior leadership team in place, yet her two Deputies are languishing on the Floor because of Republican holds. The agency is grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other humanitarian emergencies that are ravaging the globe. It simply cannot function at its best without senior leadership. So, why is it that Republicans insist on blocking Paloma Adams-Allen and Isobel Coleman, two highly-qualified nominees, to serve as USAID’s Deputy Administrators?
Let me take a moment to once again raise Haiti. We heard a lot about Haiti here on the Floor, particularly from our Republican colleagues and on the challenge at the border.
In August, a massive earthquake in Haiti killed more than 2,200 people, injured 12,000 more, and destroyed tens of thousands of buildings. This comes after the assassination of Haiti’s president. But here again, Republicans are holding a senior member of Ambassador Power’s team – Marcela Escobari, the nominee to be Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID. Escobari, who will manage our response to the Haiti earthquake once confirmed, already held this very job in the Obama administration, and she was confirmed by voice vote then.
We want to deal with the challenge of Haitian refugees coming to the border, and other refugees coming to the border.
Let's confirm the USAID Deputy Administrator who will deal with that issue so we can deal with the root causes. How do we create stability in Haiti? How do we provide relief for the Haitian people? How do we create feeding for the Haitian people so they are not fleeing their country?
But no, we're going to stop this nominee who was going to be at the very heart of that. So when you see a new group of Haitian refugees, blame yourself.
We have spent many months in this body talking about the challenges posed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, passed by this body in June, and the Strategic Competition Act, which passed almost unanimously out of the Foreign Relations Committee, 21-1, are proof of that. We have collectively come together on this much to recognize China as the as the greatest geopolitical and geoeconomic challenge for United States foreign policy, and we have rightly focused on effectively confronting Chinese malign influence.
And yet we are failing to ensure a fundamentally critical element of that strategy: that is, empowered leadership in our diplomatic corps across the world. Our former colleague, Senator Ken Salazar, is the only Biden administration nominee who has been confirmed to serve as a country ambassador representing United States interests abroad. The only one in the ninth month of this Administration. Let me be clear: Holding up our diplomats is effectively ceding influence to China and actively undermining U.S. national security interests.
People come to the Floor and talk about China. Well, they are empowering China by not having our people in position to counter their influence.
It is a fact that Congo and Angola owe over 40 percent of their entire national debt to China. So, I ask my colleagues, why have we not yet confirmed Tulinabo Mushingi, a career foreign service officer, as our ambassador to Angola? Why have we not yet confirmed Eugene Young, another career foreign service officer, as our ambassador to the Congo?
China and Somalia have recently entered into a new fishing agreement, and Chinese vessels are increasingly accessing Somalia’s waters and strategic coastline, adjacent to the Red Sea. Why have we not yet confirmed Larry Andre Jr., a career foreign service officer, as our ambassador to Somalia?
China’s influence is spread across the continent of Africa, including through its Belt and Road Initiative, which is branded as a development initiative but being used by China to advance its own interests. Why have we not yet confirmed Elizabeth Aubin and Maria Brewer, two career foreign service officers, as our ambassadors to Algeria and Lesotho, respectively?
I have spoken on the Senate Floor several months ago about Chinese influence in Cameroon. We have not had an American ambassador in Cameroon in over a year. Why have we not yet confirmed Christopher John Lamora, a career foreign service officer, as our ambassador to Cameroon?
Vietnam sits on the border of China. It is on the front lines of Chinese coercion in the South China Sea. Why have we not yet confirmed Mark Knapper, a career foreign service officer, as our ambassador to Vietnam?
Colleagues, each of these nominees I mentioned deserves to be confirmed today, and our national security interests demand it.
So in pursuit of what I hope will be a recognition of that, because at some point something's going to happen here in the world in one of these countries or one of these regions. When it happens and we didn't have our representative there, I think the member who is objecting is going to have to live with that reality.”