July 25, 2019

Menendez Announces Bipartisan Path Forward Ahead of Committee’s Business Meeting

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks at the opening of today’s business meeting, announcing a path forward to consider legislation and a package of nominations, and maintaining the longstanding bipartisan tradition of the Committee. 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am very pleased that we were able to come together today and reach an agreement on a path forward for the legislation on the agenda today, as well as a package of nominations. I also want to thank all of the other Senators on this committee on both sides who worked to get us to the agreement today, and who spoke out on the importance of maintaining the tradition of bipartisanship on this Committee.

“For many decades, this Committee has stood alone in the Senate, a bipartisan haven in the midst of a tidal wave of partisanship. It is in this Committee that Senators from both parties have come together to craft critical pieces of legislation at times of great crisis in our country. 

“We are the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We represent America’s face to the world and it is always better when we can speak with one voice about America’s foreign policy. That is why I am pleased that we were able to come together on an agreement today on legislation and nominations.

“Let me outline what that agreement is. We have agreed to place thirteen nominees, including Kelly Craft, the nominee to be Ambassador to the United Nations on the agenda. I would note that while I do not support a number of nominees, we had completed their vetting process and I supported adding them to the agenda. 

“However, for Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Manchester, we still had outstanding requests related to allegations of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.  I am glad that the Chairman agreed to withdraw them until the White House responds to my letters requesting that Diplomatic Security conduct additional vetting. If the White House responds to my letters requesting additional vetting, both of those nominees will be cleared for a business meeting in early September.

“I am also shocked that the White House has refused to provide the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with full and complete copies of the US Agreements with Mexico and Guatemala on migration. As was clear in our hearing yesterday, when we had the State Department Legal Advisor, Mr. Marik String, the Administration is refusing to even answer basic questions about these agreements, including whether they are binding under international law. I appreciate that the Chairman has agreed to hold an open hearing on Mexico in September and that he will be joining my request for the full Mexico and Guatemala agreements, and implementing arrangements. 

“Once those steps are completed, in spite of my deep concerns about Mr. Bremberg’s policy positions, which are out of line with most Americans and many Republicans’ views, I will also agree to put Mr. Bremberg on a business meeting.

“I also look forward to discussions with you Mr. Chairman in the weeks ahead on a broader path forward on how we can get timely responses from the Administration on basic informational purposes so that we can maintain the bipartisan tradition that our predecessors so wisely chose.

“I sincerely hope that this broader discussion is a fruitful one, not just for the smooth running of the Committee in this 116th Congress, but for the benefit of future congresses, and all Americans to come. When the next war comes, when the next attack strikes America, the leaders of this Committee will need to bring the two parties together, indeed, to bring the entire American people together to respond to the crises of their time.

“As Senators, we have a responsibility to nurture and strengthen the institutions that we are part of. And our predecessors – Republicans and Democrats alike – left us a strong committee; one where Democrats and Republicans respect each other, where we work out our problems based on comity.  

 

“But I just want to make one observation about comity. Comity is not the mere acquiescence to a willful majority, whatever that majority may be at any given point. That’s not comity. Comity is a deliberative, consultative, negotiated process where the majority and minority come together to form a pathway over to consensus. We do not always agree as it relates to legislation. We do not always agree as it relates to the nominee. But we come to a pathway forward. But that pathway forward also has to observe the rights of minority, the rights that I observed when I was Chairman of this committee. And it needs to be preserved, a tradition that has continued today. It needs to be preserved going forward, and I look forward to working with the Chairman and all of the members of the Committee to do so.

“I want to speak briefly concerning the legislation on the agenda today. When it comes to the Saudi bill, I will speak more on it. But I just want to say to the Chairman, with all due respect and I appreciate that he is trying to do something that sends a message, I think this is a rather weak message. I will also say that I do not believe that bill can become law. I don’t believe it will pass the House of Representatives as it is currently written.

“Secondly, if we, as Senators on this Committee, start down a path in which the suggestion that a President—regardless of which President is sitting in the White House – will not sign something and that could be an automatic veto upon what we decide to do—that’s a dangerous path.

“If that was the view, CAATSA would never have become law. When my colleagues and I joined together to write CAATSA, we were told the same thing: It won’t become law. And then the Russians did what they did, and ultimately CAATSA became the law of the land---a critical law at this point in time.

“I don’t think we should be vetoing ourselves before we have an opportunity to pass legislation that we could make law.

“I appreciate Senator Cruz’s and Senator Shaheen’s leadership on the Nord Stream bill. I am opposed to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which poses a significant risk to European energy security.  If completed, this pipeline would create a permanent alternative export route to the Ukrainian pipeline system. This means that Nord Stream 2 would further undermine Ukraine’s economic security and potentially increase its vulnerability to further Russian military incursions.

“Putin has complete disregard for international rules. The Russian Federation has repeatedly used its energy resources as a lever of power.  It would be foolish to give Putin yet another, powerful, lever of power and think he will not use it against the west.

“Though a small country, North Macedonia has made notable contributions to international security missions.  North Macedonia has deployed more than 4,000 troops to Iraq in support of U.S. efforts there.  In 2018, North Macedonia boosted its contribution to Afghanistan by 20%.  It has also supported missions in Kosovo and actively supports the international counter-ISIS coalition.  North Macedonia is home to a military training ground unlike any other in Europe which will be a critical asset for all of NATO.  These are all strong arguments in favor of its inclusion in the alliance.

“Admission of North Macedonia into NATO would mark another important step towards fully integrating the Balkans into international institutions that have helped to contribute to peace and stability over the years in Europe.  And I urge all of my colleagues to support this Protocol.

“Mr. Chairman, we have a number of nominations on the agenda. I support all of the nominations except for Craft and Rakolta. And I will speak about those two, as well as Lana Marks, prior to voting.

“I am also pleased to see that we are moving 9 foreign service lists. It is absolutely critical that we move these expeditiously, as the talented and dedicated men and women of the foreign service depend on it.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

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