March 27, 2019

Menendez Corrects the Record on Trump Administration’s Failure to Fill Key State Department Vacancies

“It’s clear that President Trump has an inaccurate - or dishonest - view of the nominations situation in the Senate, and particularly on the Foreign Relations Committee. We cannot confirm diplomats that we do not have.”

WASHINGTONU.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke on the Senate Floor today to outline the Trump Administration’s failure to nominate qualified individuals for a number of ambassador posts and senior State Department positions. The Senator’s speech comes in response to the latest statements the President reportedly made yesterday afternoon when he met with Senate Republicans, where he tried to shift the blame away from himself for his Administration’s failure to adequately staff our foreign policy agencies.

“When the Trump Administration repeatedly fails to appropriately vet political nominees, Congress must exercise appropriate oversight,” said Menendez. “The President has nominated and re-nominated individuals with restraining orders for threats of violence; people who made material omissions, sometimes on a repeated basis, in their nomination materials; people who tweeted and retweeted vile things about Senators and their families; and who have engaged in incidents that should, frankly, mean they never should have been nominated.  One nominee attacked my late colleague and good friend, Senator John McCain, claiming that John McCain, an American hero, was rolling ‘out the welcome mat for ISIS on America’s Southern Border.’ But unfortunately, we know that attacking McCain does not cross any redlines for this President. Another nominee has claimed, with no evidence, that the wife of Senator Cruz is part of a sinister cabal seeking to combine the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States. This nominee called Hillary Clinton a ‘terrorist with amnesia,’ and retweeted someone calling Senator Romney a ‘dumbass.’ You can’t make this stuff up.”

“When the White House, either through negligence or incompetence, sends us un-vetted, unqualified nominees, incapable and often times offensive, my staff and I must exercise due diligence on behalf of the American people.  So, to make this crystal clear, the President can speed up this process. All he has to do is start nominating Americans with appropriate credentials and honorable conduct in their careers,” concluded the Senator.

 

Below are Senator Menendez’s remarks as delivered.

“I come to the floor to correct the record concerning statements the President reportedly made yesterday afternoon when he met with Senate Republicans.

Apparently, in-between his efforts to stiff hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and tear affordable health care away from millions of Americans, President Trump claimed that Democrats were holding up ambassadorial nominations in the Senate.

Just weeks ago we heard similar comments from the Senate Majority Leader, who claimed that General John Abizaid’s nomination to be Ambassador to Saudi Arabia was “being held up.”

So let me be clear: no one wants to see the State Department vested with all the resources it needs to be effectively conduct American foreign policy, including qualified and capable staff, more than I do.

We cannot promote our foreign policy, protect American citizens, advocate for American businesses or advance American values without a robust diplomatic corps.

So I want all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to know that each time the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has received nominations, I have dedicated my time and staff resources to efficiently and diligently vet and advance those nominations.

In the last Congress, the Committee reported 169 nominations.  I reject any assertion that we have not done our part to ensure that the State Department is appropriately staffed.

Now let me speak to General Abizaid, because no one can honestly claim that the Foreign Relations Committee has been anything but extremely diligent and expeditious with his nomination.

With my full support, General Abizaid appeared on the very first Committee nominations hearing of this Congress.

And I very much look forward to voting in favor of his nomination -- as soon as our Chairman - our Republican Chairman – exercises his prerogative and puts him before the Committee for a vote.

As with all nominees, the timing of his consideration by the full Senate is under the control of the Majority Leader.

It’s clear that President Trump has an inaccurate – or dishonest- view of the nominations situation in the Senate, and particularly on the Foreign Relations Committee.

We cannot confirm diplomats that we do not have. All too often, the Committee has received nominations late or not at all.

The Trump Administration took nearly two years before it even bothered to nominate General Abizaid, leaving a gaping hole in our diplomatic posture to Saudi Arabia and the region.

To go nearly two years without putting forward a nominee is a failure of leadership pure and simple.

Saudi Arabia’s actions over these past two years highlight the fact that we need an adult on the ground, which is why I wholeheartedly support General Abizaid and look forward to what I hope is his speedy confirmation.

Sadly, Saudi Arabia is not an isolated example.

It took even longer, more than two years, for the Trump Administration to nominate a candidate to be U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.

Astonishingly enough, it was only this week that the President sent up an ambassadorial nominee for Mexico.

We are now 26 months into the Trump Administration, and we still lack ambassadorial nominees to critical countries like Egypt, Pakistan, and our close ally, Jordan.

So let’s be clear – this is the President’s reckless abdication of a constitutional responsibility essential to projecting American power abroad. When you don’t nominate someone, President Trump has only himself to blame. 

Furthermore, Mr. President, there is unfortunately another severe problem that we cannot ignore with regard to this Administration’s nominees.

When the Trump Administration repeatedly fails to appropriately vet political nominees, Congress must exercise appropriate oversight.

The President has nominated and re-nominated individuals with restraining orders for threats of violence; people who made material omissions, sometimes on a repeated basis, in their nomination materials; people who tweeted and retweeted vile things about Senators and their families; and who have engaged in incidents that should, frankly, mean they never should have been nominated.

One nominee attacked my late colleague and good friend, Senator John McCain, claiming that John McCain, an American hero, was rolling ‘out the welcome mat for ISIS on America’s Southern Border.’ But unfortunately we know that attacking McCain does not cross any redlines for this President.

Another nominee has claimed, with no evidence, that the wife of Senator Cruz is part of a sinister cabal seeking to combine the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States. This nominee called Hillary Clinton a ‘terrorist with amnesia,’ and retweeted someone calling Senator Romney a ‘dumbass.’

You can’t make this stuff up.

Senator Sasse’s office said that nominee should ‘put on his tinfoil hat and visit our office with evidence for his salacious conspiracy theories and cuckoo allegations,’ and went on to observe that, ‘people who want to serve Americans as our diplomats and spokespeople abroad should know that words and truth matter, even during campaigns. Cynics and nuts are probably going to have a hard time securing Senate confirmation.’

I couldn’t agree more. Yet the President thought highly enough of this individual, and lowly enough of the U.S. Senate, that he nominated him for an ambassadorship in two successive congresses.

Another ambassadorial nominee was the subject of a temporary restraining order after she left a bullet-riddled target practice sheet on her doctor’s chair. Again, you cannot make this up.

As for being unresponsive to Committee requirements for all nominees, I can understand that nominees may accidentally leave off a few businesses that they were involved in. But we had one nominee who failed to inform the Committee of dozens of businesses, and another nominee who, even more egregiously, failed to mention multiple lawsuits that he was involved in, including one in which he was alleged to have fired a female employee who complained of sexual harassment. Given the nature and frequency of these omissions, it’s hard to believe they are unintentional. 

So when the White House, either through negligence or incompetence, sends us un-vetted, unqualified nominees, incapable and often times offensive, my staff and I must exercise due diligence on behalf of the American people.

So, to make this crystal clear, the President can speed up this process. All he has to do is start nominating Americans with appropriate credentials and honorable conduct in their careers. This is not rocket science!

Mr. President, the United States and our allies continue to face tremendous challenges around the world.

We must continue to lead on the international stage and work in collaboration with international partners to achieve our shared security goals.  

But to have our diplomats in place, they must be nominated in a timely fashion and vetted properly. 

That is the real hold-up here, not Senate Democrats. And I refuse to let this President point the finger at us when he should be pointing at himself.”

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