H.R. 1368: No Healthcare Subsidies for Foreign Diplomats Act of 2015

Posted: 12:12 am EDT

 

Following the 2013 report that Russian diplomats were charged with alleged widespread Medicaid fraud between 2004 to 2013 at an approximate cost of $1,500,000 in fraudulently received benefits (see 49 Russian Diplomats/Spouses Charged With Picking Uncle Sam’s Pocket in Medicaid Scam), Congress investigated (Congress Seeks Information on Obamacare Coverage of Foreign Diplomats).

On March 17, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs announced  that U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced H.R. 1368, the No Healthcare Subsidies for Foreign Diplomats Act of 2015, legislation to prevent foreign diplomats from receiving subsidized health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, foreign diplomats and United Nations employees in the United States are currently eligible to obtain American taxpayer-funded subsidies under the ACA, such as premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, just like American citizens and lawful permanent residents.  By contrast, U.S. diplomats overseas do not depend on foreign taxpayers for health care coverage, relying instead on domestic health insurance plans that provide overseas coverage.

Chairman Royce said: “After a year-long investigation, the Obama Administration finally came clean about the fact that foreign diplomats are eligible for taxpayer-funded health care subsidies.  This is unacceptable.   Americans’ tax dollars should not be used to foot the bill for foreign diplomats’ health care coverage.  I am pleased to reintroduce this legislation and look forward to working with Chairman Ryan to pass this commonsense reform.”

H.R. 1368:

  • Expresses the sense of Congress that foreign diplomats should be allowed to purchase health insurance coverage in the U.S., but the cost of that coverage should be borne by their sending States;
  • Expresses the sense of Congress that U.S. taxpayers should not subsidize the health insurance expenses of foreign diplomats;
  • Amends the Internal Revenue Code to make foreign diplomats ineligible for health insurance premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions under the ACA;
  • Requires the Secretary of HHS to certify to Congress that no foreign diplomats are receiving such benefits under the ACA; and
  • Requires the Secretary of State to notify all foreign missions in the U.S. that their personnel are ineligible for these benefits under the ACA.

The Committee says that initially, it sent a letter to Secretary Kerry requesting information on the arrest and the eligibility of foreign diplomats receiving government-funded medical benefits.  In January and April of 2014, the Committee also sent letters to the Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding foreign diplomats’ eligibility to receive Obamacare.  In a response on September 30, 2014, HHS confirmed foreign diplomats’ eligibility for government subsidized healthcare.  In October of 2014, Chairman Royce and former Chairman Camp wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen seeking information about how many foreign diplomats have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act and have received subsidies.

The HHS response to the eligibility of foreign diplomats under Obamacare notes the following:

[F]oreign diplomats’ eligibility to participate in the Health Insurance Marketplaces is governed by the Affordable Care Act, which specifies that, in order to enroll in a qualified health plan (QHP) through the Marketplace, an individual must: (I) reside in the state that established the Marketplace; (2) not be incarcerated, other than pending the disposition of charges; and (3) be a United States’ citizen or national, or a non-citizen who is lawfully present and reasonably expected to remain so for the entire period for which enrollment is sought. Non-immigrant, non-citizens in the “A” and “G” visa classifications are lawfully present for this purpose, if they have not violated the terms of the status under which they were admitted or to which they have changed after admission. Accordingly, to the extent that a foreign diplomat who is a non-immigrant under an “A” or “G” visa classification and who has not violated the terms of the status under which he or she was admitted or to which he or she has changed after admission resides in the state that established the Marketplace and is not incarcerated other than pending the disposition of charges, he or she would be eligible for enrollment in a QHP through the Marketplace. The Department does not collect data on the number of foreign diplomats who participate in the Marketplace.

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Related posts:

 

 

Photo of the Day: Arnold Chacon, First Hispanic Director General of the Foreign Service

Posted: 12:27 am EDT

 

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The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources Ambassador Arnold Chacon oversees the Bureau of Human Resources (M/DGHR). The Bureau handles recruitment, assignment evaluation, promotion, discipline, career development, and retirement policies and programs for the Department’s Foreign and Civil Service employees.

DGHR Chacon was sworn-in by Secretary Kerry as the new Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (DGHR), at the Department of State on January 8, 2014.  Excerpt below, see the full remarks here:

The Department’s diversity, like our country’s, makes us stronger, not weaker. I will be the director general for all of the State Department family – Civil Service, Foreign Service, locally employed staff, family members, contractors, interns, detailees, and yes, Mr. Secretary, even Ben the diplo-pup. (Laughter.)

I will also ensure that our family reflects America in all its magnificent variety and represents every corner and every face of our great nation. Our mission is to recruit, retain, and sustain exemplary employees who advance our values, interests, and goals. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the essential thing to do if we’re going to navigate the complex challenges of the 21st century and make the most of new opportunities.
[…]
I’m also pleased and humbled by the presence today of so many friends and colleagues who share my desire to make a difference in people’s lives. I think of myself as a protege of a unique generation of accomplished and trailblazing diplomats – in particular, Ambassadors Cresencio Arcos, John Negroponte, Alan Solomont, Kristie Kenney, Harry Thomas, Ruth Davis, Skip Gnehm, Ambassador Perkins, and Sally Cowal. It has been my good fortune to have been mentored by such exceptional individuals who gave me career-enhancing opportunities and helped me become the best that I could be.

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Welcome Reception for Randy Berry, Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons

Posted: 18:05 EST

 

On February 23, 2015, the State Department  announced the appointment of FSO Randy Berry as the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons. Today, Secretary Kerry hosted a welcome reception at the State Department to commemorate the announcement. Click on the image below to view the video of the welcome remarks by Secretary Kerry, Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (State/DRL) and Special Envoy Randy Berry:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27

Randy Berry, LGBT Special Envoy at Welcome Reception on February 27, 2015 (click image to view video)

I am well aware how lucky I am to be standing here before you today with such amazing and comprehensive support networks, not only professionally but also personally. I’m joined here today not only by my sisters, Rita and Rhonda from Colorado, but also by my husband and my fellow global traveler, Pravesh Singh. Pravesh left his native South Africa nearly a decade ago not only to join me, but I think he really didn’t realize he was also joining a larger family, and that is the Foreign Service, a family bound together in service to the United States. He’s as much a member of the United States Foreign Service as I am, and I am very pleased to say that post-DOMA, when we move here from Amsterdam in early April, he will move home as an American citizen. (Applause.)

Pravesh and I do not share a common culture, nor do we share a common religion, nor do we share a common race. As much as it pains me to say this, we don’t even share a common decade – (laughter) – really. What we do share, however, is love, and that love has built a good and happy life and a family that now includes our exceptional – (laughter) – our exceptional young children who are normally so well behaved – (laughter) – Arya and Xander. Yet as I say that, I think all of us in this room recognize just how unbelievably fortunate we are, for in far too many places around the world not only is this type of story impossible, but additionally, great and terrible injustices are visited on people like us.

This love still stands ground for imprisonment, harassment, torture, and far worse in too many places around the world. That is a violation of human rights. It is a violation of human rights by the standards set forth by many of our allies and partners around the world, and it is a violation of human rights by the standard of the universal declaration. We can and we must do better. Lives, futures, hopes and dreams depend on that, and that is why we’re here today. That’s also why this type of role is needed.

Read the full remarks here.

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Photo of the Day: Back in the U.S.A.

Posted: 08:41 PST

 

Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 13, 2015, after the Secretary stopped by a gathering to thank Embassy employees and a Department-based task force for their work to safely and successfully evacuate the Embassy after the suspending operations and temporarily relocating staff out of the capital of Sana’a. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller

 

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State Department Announces Two New Special Envoys: Stratcom and Colombia Peace Process

Posted: 01:02 EST
Updated: 14:47  PST

 

Last week, the State Department announced two new special envoy appointments. The first one announced on February 18 was the appointment of Rashad Hussain as United States Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. Since 2010, Special Envoy Hussain has served as U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In 2009, Mr. Hussain worked with the National Security Council in developing and pursuing the New Beginning that President Obama outlined in his address in Cairo, Egypt. Before joining the White House, Mr. Hussain was a member of the legal staff for the Presidential Transition Team.

Special Envoy Hussain will lead a staff drawn from a number of U.S. departments and agencies to expand international engagement and partnerships to counter violent extremism and to develop strategic counterterrorism communications around the world.  As part of this role, Special Envoy Hussain will also serve as Coordinator of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, which was established at the direction of the President and former Secretary of State Clinton in 2010 and codified by President Obama’s Executive Order 13584 to coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide strategic communications focused on violent extremists and terrorist organizations.
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Mr. Hussain received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Upon graduation, he served as a Law Clerk to Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Mr. Hussain also earned his Master’s degrees in Public Administration (Kennedy School of Government) and Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His academic writings have focused on national security, constitutional law, and civil liberties.

It looks like Special Envoy Hussain would will replace Ambassador Alberto M. Fernandez who assumed the position of Coordinator of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) in 2012. The center was established in September 2010 to coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide public communications activities directed at audiences abroad and targeted against violent extremists and terrorist organizations, especially al-Qaida, its affiliates, and its adherents. We understand that Ambassador Fernandez is heading to retirement.

On February 20, Secretary Kerry also announced the appointment of Bernie Aronson as the United States special envoy for the Colombian peace process:

Now Bernie’s experience in this region is significant. It’s extensive. In addition to being a former assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, his well-recognized hard work in helping to resolve the conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua is really a lasting achievement in American diplomacy, and it earned him the State Department’s Distinguished Service Medal and the admiration of all those who followed those talks and who have worked in the region since.
[…]
These negotiations are not easy, and we know that. Negotiations like this never are. They’re reasons that this has gone on for years and years. If it was easy, it would have been done already. The Colombian Government and the FARC have been fighting for longer than most Colombians have been alive. And after so many years of violence, emotions always run strong, and that’s understandable.

But with courage, with determination, with a just and lasting commitment to peace, we think that the courage shown by President Santos and the people of Colombia in pursuing these talks could actually find a resolution. With the help of Special Envoy Aronson, the United States is going to continue to stand by Colombians’ side in this journey, and we hope that 2015 could possibly take a step forward in helping to bring Colombia the security, the prosperity and, most importantly, the peace that it deserves.

These latest appointments join almost 30 other special envoys/special representatives currently encumbering filling in various portfolios in Foggy Bottom ranging from Af/Pak and climate change to commercial/business affairs, and religion and foreign policy. Special envoy/special representative appointments do not require Senate confirmations.

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Related items:

-02/20/15  Remarks Announcing the New Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process Bernie Aronson;  Secretary of State John Kerry; Treaty Room; Washington, DC

-02/18/15  Appointment of Rashad Hussain as United States Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC

 

Tony Blinken Confirmed as State Department #2

– Domani Spero

 

The U.S. Senate confirmed Tony Blinken as deputy secretary of state on December 16 just before Congress adjourned. In early December, Newsweek reported that Senator John McCain was blocking the nomination, citing sharp disagreement with the nominee’s past statements on Iraq.

Via HuffPo: Blinken, whose nomination was nearly derailed by Republican opponents, skates into the office on a 55-38 vote as Democrats pushed dozens of President Barack Obama’s nominations through the upper chamber before losing their majority in the next Congress. The approval was thanks to Sen. Ted Cruz‘s (R-Texas) staunch opposition to the government spending bill, which kept senators in Washington for an extra few days before adjourning.

 

 

 

On November 7, President Obama released a statement on his nomination of Mr. Blinken:

I’m proud to nominate Antony Blinken to be our next Deputy Secretary of State. I’ve known and worked closely with Tony for the past decade, starting when I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he was its Staff Director. For the past six years, I’ve relied on Tony in the White House, where I’ve come to have extraordinary respect for his knowledge, judgment, and inclusive approach to developing and implementing our foreign policy. As everyone who knows and works with Tony can attest, he is a person of enormous integrity, with a tireless work ethic and deep love of country. He is exactly the type of person who we want to represent the United States of America overseas. If confirmed by the Senate, I know he will continue to do a great job on behalf of my Administration, Secretary Kerry and the American people.

The WH also released the following brief bio:

Antony Blinken is Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, a position he has held since 2013.  From 2009 to 2013, Mr. Blinken was Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor in the Office of the Vice President.  Previously, he was Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2002 to 2008.  From 2001 to 2002, he was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  In the Clinton Administration, he served on the National Security Council staff as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs and as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and Speechwriting.  He also served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs at the Department of State.  Mr. Blinken received a B.A. from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Mr. Blinken’s spouseEvan M. Ryan is currently Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

Here is additional biographic details when he was appointed a key member of the Obama National Security Team after the 2008 presidential elections:

Antony “Tony” Blinken was appointed Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 2002.  From 1994 to 2001, Mr. Blinken served on the National Security Council staff at The White House.  He was Senior Director for European Affairs (1999-2001) and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and NSC Senior Director for Speechwriting (1994-1998).  He also served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (1993 – 1994), and was a lawyer in New York and Paris.  Mr. Blinken was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2001 to 2002) and a Senior Foreign Policy adviser to the Obama-Biden presidential campaign.  He has been a reporter for The New Republic magazine and has written about foreign policy for numerous publications, including The New York Times and Foreign Affairs Magazine.  He is the author Ally Verses Ally: America, Europe and the Siberian Pipeline Crisis (1987).  Mr. Blinken is a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School.

Of the four key members of the Obama National Security Team announced in 2008, only Tom Donilon has not assumed a key position in the State Department. James B. Steinberg was Deputy Secretary of State from 2009-2011, and Jack Lew was Deputy Secretary of State from 2009-2010.  Mr. Donilon previously worked as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs from 1993 to 1996, and served as the Clinton administration’s Secretary of State’s chief of staff.

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Related posts:

Obama Officially Nominates WH Adviser Tony Blinken as State Dept #2

State Dept’s Wendy Sherman Now Dual-Hatted as “P” and New Acting Deputy Secretary

Officially In: Steinberg and Lew, the New “D”

Academy of Diplomacy’s Pickering and Neumann Warns Secretary Kerry About Risk Avoidance At All Cost

– Domani Spero

 

The American Academy of Diplomacy’s chairman, Ambassador  Thomas Pickering and its president, Ambassador Ronald Neuman wrote a letter last week to Secretary Kerry urging his “support to get America’s diplomats into the field and back into contact with local societies.” The group is concerned that the demand that civilian officers operate “at or near zero risk” undermines the effectiveness of American diplomacy and America’s national security interests.

Excerpt below:

As terrorist attacks have grown, security restrictions have become more intense. This has been necessary but is now too dominant in decision making. Many of us have run critical threat posts. We have no illusions about the need to calculate and mitigate risk. But ultimately we must all judge the relative risks of any action against its benefits to the national interest. What we see happening in far too many places are decisions reflecting Washington guidance to avoid risk at all cost. This approach is spreading from critical threat posts to other less threatened posts and personnel, creating a chilling effect for our diplomats attempting to carry out their missions through travel and contacts across a wider range of security environments.

The demand that civilian officers operate at or near zero risk undermines the effectiveness of American diplomacy and, by extension, America’s national security interests. Engaging with the local population and its leaders is crucial to the knowledge essential to sound policy. Failure to do so adequately is a short-term loss for the conduct of diplomacy and a long-term loss for policy formulation. We support the view taken by senior Department officials who have acknowledged the need for accepting prudent risk in the conduct of diplomacy. However, we believe that your own leadership must be engaged to reinforce these statements and the concrete actions need to convey to the field some acceptance of measured risk taking.

The Academy urge more training on risk management not just for officers but also for Chiefs of Mission:

Foreign Service Officers accept worldwide assignment and that includes a measure of risk; that idea needs reinforcement. More tradecraft training for officers borrowing from the best the US government has to offer may be useful. Greater education in risk management certainly is needed for Chiefs of Mission who must be empowered to make critical decisions. Chiefs of Mission are already charged with securing their staffs but need much more training in how to make security judgments. More resources need to be devoted to all these areas. Security officers need to believe that their task is to enable mission performance as safely as possible but not to avoid all risk.

The group believes that “a focused conversation with Congress is required to gain acceptance for the realities of the decisions needed” and tells Secretary Kerry that it is prepared to help in a dialogue with Congress but needs a “specific direction” from the secretary of state for current practices to change.

The American Academy of Diplomacy is currently working on a major study of what is needed to improve the professionalism of American diplomacy and the capacity of Foreign Service Officers.

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Theodore Osius III Sworn-in as New U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam

– Domani Spero

 

 

Via state.gov

Theodore Osius III, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Associate Professor at the National War College in Washington, D.C. on detail from the Department of State. Deeply experienced in Asian Affairs, he was among the first officers in Hanoi, opened the post in Ho Chi Minh City and has held critical senior executive positions in the region. Known as a talented leader and expert manager, he uses his public affairs and electronic outreach savvy to reach important audiences. He has a strong grounding in commercial advocacy that delivers concrete trade results. He will bring essential skills to the task of furthering bilateral relations with the Government of Vietnam, a key nation in Southeast Asia for American diplomacy.

Previously, Mr. Osius served the Department of State as a Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C. (2012-2013), Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia (2009-2012), Political Minister-Counselor, Embassy New Delhi, India (2006-2009), Deputy Director, Office of Korean Affairs (2004-2006), Regional Environment Officer, Embassy Bangkok, Thailand (2001-2004), Senior Advisor on International Affairs, Office of the Vice President (1998-2001), Political Officer, Consulate General, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (1997-1998), Political Officer, Embassy Hanoi, Vietnam (1996-1997), Staff Aide/Political Officer, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, New York (1993-1995), Political/Management Officer, Embassy Vatican, Holy See (1992-1993) and Political/Consular Officer, Embassy Manila, Philippines (1989-1991). He was also Legislative Correspondent, Office of Albert Gore, Jr., U.S. Senate (1985-1987) and Presidential Intern, American University, Cairo, Egypt (1984-1985). He is a Founding Member of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies.

Mr. Osius earned an A.B. from Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1984 and a M.A. from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. in 1989. He is the recipient of two Senior Foreign Service Performance Awards, six Superior Honor Awards and three Meritorious Honor Awards from the Department of State. He speaks Vietnamese, French, Italian, Basic Arabic, Basic Hindi, Basic Thai, Basic Japanese and Basic Indonesian.

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Kerry Officially Appoints Amos Hochstein as Energy Envoy. Oh, Hey, What’s That?

– Domani Spero

 

It’s official. Last week, Secretary Kerry appointed Amos Hochstein as Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs. Here is his state.gov bio:

Amos J Hochstein serves as the Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs leading the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) at the U.S. Department of State. He oversees U.S. foreign policy engagement in the critical intersection of energy and national security. In this role, he advises the Secretary on global energy security and diplomacy, as well as promotes U.S. interests to ensure energy resources are used to increase economic opportunity, stability and prosperity around the world. Special Envoy Hochstein also advises the Secretary on U.S. strategy to advance global integration of renewable and clean energy sources. Prior to this role, Mr. Hochstein served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy and in that capacity oversaw the Office of Middle East and Asia and the Office of Europe, the Western Hemisphere and Africa where he lead the bureau’s energy diplomacy efforts.

Prior to joining the State Department, Mr. Hochstein spent more than 15 years advising U.S. elected officials, candidates for public office and thought leaders on domestic and global energy policy initiatives. He began his career in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill where he served in a variety of senior level positions, ultimately serving as the Senior Policy Advisor to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mr. Hochstein first served as the principal Democratic staff person on the Economic Policy, Trade and Environment Subcommittee where he oversaw work authorizing Ex-Im Bank, OPIC and USTDA, as well as drafting legislation on export controls and trade-related multilateral organizations and regimes.

Mr. Hochstein served as Policy Director to Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). Prior to his work with Sen. Dodd, he worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to Senator (then Governor) Mark Warner (D-VA).

Harnessing his experience in the policy, campaign and public sector, Mr. Hochstein moved to the private sector as Executive Vice President of International Operations at Cassidy & Associates. Throughout his career, he has been a counselor for both domestic and international oil and gas companies, as well as companies focusing on renewable energy. In this capacity, he assisted corporations in assessing potential new markets and the development of alternative sources of power and best strategies to bring them to market.

 

You may now follow (or not) Mr. Hochstein on Twitter at  but he says “tweets are my own.” Now, where’s the fun in that?

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Mr. Hochstein succeeds Ambassador Carlos Pascual who was appointed Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs after a stint as ambassador to Mexico. The Bureau of Energy Affairs was subsequently  created in November 2011.   We have posted here about Ambassador Pascual when he became the first public casualty of WikiLeaks in March 2011.  Two days after that, his resignation was announced On May 2011, Ambassador Pascual was appointed as Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs. He was nominated the first Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Energy Affairs in February 2012.  The Senate did not act on the nomination and this past summer, he resigned from his State Department post to join Columbia University’s  Center on Global Energy Policy.

According to the state.gov, the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) is “working to ensure that all our diplomatic relationships advance our interests in having access to secure, reliable, and ever-cleaner sources of energy.” It’s three core objectives includes energy diplomacy, energy transformation, and energy transparency and access.

Mr. Amos has been appointed to a special envoy position which requires no confirmation. He heads State’s ENR office supported by  Amb. Mary Warlick as his Principal Deputy Assistant SecretaryRobin Dunnigan as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy and Robert F. Ichord, Jr., Ph.D. as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation.

Oh, hey, what’s that?

 

Wait — there’s more? Via Newsweek back in 2010, with special mention for the new special envoy, Mr. Hochstein who then oversaw the Equatorial Guinea account:

The rise in foreign lobbying may have also compromised the policymaking of current and future U.S. government officials. With little oversight, lobbyists can represent the most repressive regimes and then turn around and work in government. According to John Newhouse, author of a forthcoming book on the influence of foreign lobbies on American policies, one of John McCain’s senior foreign-policy advisers during his 2008 campaign, Randy Scheunemann, simultaneously worked for McCain and as a paid adviser to the government of Georgia, which had been accused of human-rights violations. Despite McCain’s reputation as a leading champion of human rights, Scheunemann largely escaped questions about whether his lobbying might have affected his foreign-policy advice to the powerful senator. Similarly, while at Cassidy & Associates, lobbyist Amos Hochstein oversaw the Equatorial Guinea account, which required him to argue the merits of one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Still, after leaving Cassidy, Hochstein landed a prominent job on the (ill-fated) 2008 presidential campaign of Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, a politician also known for his longstanding human-rights advocacy. Now Hochstein says he helped “move the ball forward on human rights” in the country.

Lobbying can turn down the pressure on authoritarian regimes. After years of intense lobbying, Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang managed to transform his image in Washington from a venal autocrat into a solid American ally and buddy of U.S. business. In 2006 he strode out of a meeting at Foggy Bottom with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who declared him “a good friend.”

Look, one of our readers also sent us a link to Sunlight Foundation’s Foreign Influence Explorer for Equatorial Guinea. If you have never seen it, click here for folks you may or may not know.

Oh, dear.  May we please retract our congratulations now?

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Confirmations 11/20: Pettit, Spratlen, Krol, Moreno, Lu, Hartley, Controversial Nominees Up Next Month

– Domani Spero

 

The U.S. Senate confirmed the following nominations by voice vote on November 20:

  • James D. Pettit, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Moldova
  • Pamela Leora Spratlen, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Uzbekistan
  • George Albert Krol, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Kazakhstan
  • Luis G. Moreno, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Jamaica
  • Donald Lu, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Albania
  • Brent Robert Hartley, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Slovenia

On November 18, the State Department spox, Jeff Rathke said that “The full Senate can consider each of these nominees quickly. Certainly, our career nominees could be confirmed en bloc, they’re well-qualified, and they’re experienced.”

We desperately need all of America’s team on the field of diplomacy, and these are all spectacularly qualified career nominees. This is exactly how our remaining nominations should be considered and confirmed. There are 19 career Foreign Service officers awaiting confirmation on the Senate floor. They were all carefully considered in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and approved. The full Senate can consider each of these nominees quickly. Certainly, our career nominees could be confirmed en bloc, they’re well-qualified, and they’re experienced.A total of 58 State Department nominees, including 35 career diplomats, are still waiting.
[…]
Nominees on the floor have waited for more than eight and a half months on average, 258 days. It’s critical, in the Department’s view, that we get these nominees confirmed before the Senate adjourns for the year to prevent further delay in meeting our foreign policy objectives, and while we appreciate the progress just made, we know that America is stronger if the backlog is cleared and our nominees are confirmed before Thanksgiving. The Secretary has made a personal plea to his former colleagues in the Senate, and we would ask again for their help.

On November 19, the spox tried again:

Yesterday, I began the briefing with a pitch for my fellow Foreign Service officers who have been waiting for Senate confirmation. Secretary Kerry called in from London to his chief of staff, David Wade, and he asked me to come out here again this afternoon and do the same. The Secretary has been in continued contact with his former colleagues on Capitol Hill about this. It’s very important to him. He needs to have his team and he also feels it’s important that these non-controversial nominees be confirmed before Thanksgiving as well. It’s the right thing to do for them, for their families, and for America’s interests.

On November 20, the spox tried once more to appeal that the nominees be confirmed “en bloc or by unanimous consent”to no avail:

We’ve asked the united – that the Senate confirm these nominations en bloc or by unanimous consent, as we’ve seen in some cases this week, particularly because there’s no objection to these highly qualified and dedicated nominees. We urge the Senate to confirm them quickly and put them to work for the country. We need it desperately.

 

It looks like that’s it for today.  Coming up next month, the nominations of the more controversial nominee to Argentina:

Plus the nominee for Hungary:

 

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