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Chairman Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Nomination Hearing for Tony Blinken to be Deputy Secretary of State

WASHINGTON, DC –  U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s nomination for Mr. Antony Blinken of New York to the position of Deputy Secretary of State.

“I welcome you back to the Committee.  As the former Staff Director of this Committee for Chairman Biden, you know as much about the nomination process as anyone, but perhaps you are less familiar with being on that side of the table. 

“Between your service here and at the White House you also understand the challenge of managing multiple, complex situations concurrently. Those experiences will serve you well if you are confirmed for this position.

“Your nomination as Deputy Secretary of State comes at a time when the United States is facing a range of critical challenges – from Ebola in West Africa to Russian aggression in Ukraine, to the challenge of countering ISIL in Syria and Iraq – to Iran’s continued quest for a nuclear weapons program.  At the same time we are forging new global partnerships with India, in the Middle East and Asia, and looking for opportunities to expand American exports and business opportunities.

“There will be no shortage of critical issues you will face. Each will require your full attention and the full attention of this Committee, and I look forward to hearing your views on all of these issues and working closely with you on issues of mutual concern should you be confirmed.

“Foremost on our national security agenda is countering the barbarity of ISIL whose terrorist ambitions threaten our national security, as well as the stability of the entire region.

“I would like to hear more today about the Administration’s views on a new ISIL-specific AUMF.  I was hoping that the Committee would hear from Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel this week on the President’s announced plan to work with Congress on a new AUMF.

“I continue to believe it is incumbent that Congress takes the lead in authorizing the use of force. In my view, any prolonged military campaign requires a new congressionally-approved AUMF, and I believe Congress should act and the Administration should seek expeditious Congressional action.

“We also face a continued crisis in Ukraine where the ceasefire is collapsing as more Russian tanks, troops, and weapons cross the border into eastern Ukraine. In my view, it is time to provide defensive, lethal military assistance to Ukraine and escalate pressure on Putin. Sanctions are impacting Russia's economy. But Putin continues on his reckless path and all indicators point to an imminent offensive to carve out a land bridge to Crimea. I believe we must be willing to raise the costs to Putin, which will only come through the provision of defensive, lethal military assistance to the government in Kiev.

“Clearly, the list of challenges is long, the diplomatic calculations are complicated, and all of these challenges will be part of your portfolio as Deputy Secretary of State. I know there will be times when we will agree and times we will disagree, but I look forward to working closely with you should you be confirmed.

“With that let me turn to Senator Corker for his opening comments.”