July 28, 2021

Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Nominations Hearing for Assistant Secretaries, Assistant USAID Administrator, Ambassador to Mexico

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee nomination hearing for the Honorable Donald Lu, nominee to be assistant secretary of State for South Asian affairs, Ms. Jessica Lewis, nominee to be an assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, the Honorable Marcela Escobari, nominee to be an assistant administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Honorable Kenneth Lee Salazar, nominee to be ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Mexican States.  

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“And thanks to our witnesses for joining us today and your willingness to serve and, of course, your families who will share in that sacrifice.

“I want to start with the nomination of assistant secretary of State for South Asian and Central affairs.

“Personally, my top two foreign policy priorities are China and global health, and India is a major player in both of these priorities.

“I look forward to hearing your views on how we can work with India to maintain a favorable balance of power in the Indian Ocean and continue to partner in the fight against COVID and other global health concerns, including vaccine development and manufacturing in India

“It’s also becoming clear that a hasty U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan threatens to squander our hard-fought gains there.

“Ambassador Lu, we welcome your thoughts on the way ahead.

“Next, we have the nomination of assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs.

“Our security partnerships are essential to protecting our vital national interests. They are also a critical aspect of competition with China and Russia.

“We often hear from our allies and partners about problems in the speed of our security cooperation process, and often State is at the forefront of these problems.

“I look forward to hearing how you plan to strengthen our relationships with partners and allies and keep the U.S. the security partner of choice around the world. I have no doubt you have great qualifications for that task and as much as your service on this committee has shown that to be such.

“On the nomination of assistant administrator of USAID for Latin America and the Caribbean: if confirmed, you will have no shortage of challenges, especially the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela; growing violence and poverty in Haiti surrounding the recent assassination of President Moïse; democracy in Cuba and Nicaragua; and holding governments in Central America accountable for addressing the drivers of irregular immigration.

“And for the nomination of U.S. ambassador to Mexico:

“Secretary Salazar, it’s good to see you again.

“As neighbors, Mexico and the United States share an enduring interest in maintaining robust security and economic cooperation. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, especially on how to address the growing role of Mexican transnational criminal organizations in the production and trafficking of fentanyl into the United States.

“I think all of us have been shocked by the state of politics in Mexico with the huge number of assassinations taking place of people that are running for public office in the current state of affairs there. It’s staggering how many people have been killed.

“Mr. Salazar, your ability to handle these things, I have absolutely no question about. It has been a pleasure working with you on issues that were parochial in my state while you were secretary of Interior. I enjoyed serving with you briefly in this chamber.

“With that, I yield back to the chairman.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.