Category Archives: Senate Hold

The Fault in Our Skies: Senator to Deploy Blanket Senate Hold Over DOS Nominees Cuz FAA

– Domani Spero

 

On July 22, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) responsible for civil aviation safety issued the following notice:

At 12:15 EDT on July 22, 2014, the FAA issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) informing U.S. airlines that they are prohibited from flying to or from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport for a period of up to 24 hours.  The notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport on the morning of July 22, 2014.  The NOTAM applies only to U.S. operators, and has no authority over foreign airlines operating to or from the airport.

On July 23, the notice was extended for another 24 hours:

Today the FAA issued another Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) informing U.S. airlines that yesterday’s NOTAM flight remains in effect for Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport for up-to-an-additional-24-hours while the FAA continues to monitor and evaluate the situation.

The agency is working closely with the Government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation are mitigated so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible.

 

Also on July 23, Senator Cruz tweeted this:

 

The FAA is under the Department of Transportation and is headed by Anthony Foxx who is the  Secretary of Transportation, and not/not by John Kerry, the Secretary of State. That hardly matter these days.  Now, it looks like the Senate confirmation of several dozen nominees just got a tad more complicated.

Later in the evening of July 23,the FAA lifted the flight restriction:

The FAA has lifted its restrictions on U.S. airline flights into and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport by cancelling a Notice to Airmen it renewed earlier today. The cancellation is effective at approximately 11:45 p.m. EDT.

Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation.

Whew! But not so fast.

Did you see what the senator was upset about?  From Sen. Cruz’s statement:

“Tourism is an $11 billion industry for Israel, which is in the middle of a summer high season already seriously diminished by the conflict initiated by Hamas.  Group tours have been cancelling at a 30% rate.  This FAA flight ban may well represent a crippling blow to a key economic sector through both security concerns and worries that additional bans will down more flights and strand more passengers.  It hardly matters if or when the ban is lifted. At this point, the damage may already be done.

He’s alleging economic boycott and mighty mad about it.  On June 24, Politico reported that the senator, who GQ calls the “Distinguished Wacko Bird from Texas” has vowed to block all State Department nominees until he gets answers. But it hardly matters what answers he get, he won’t like them when he gets them.

After such lengthy waits, with some nominees waiting for over a year, we thought that these State Department nominees will eventually get confirmed by August 1. Last year, some 30 nominees were confirmed by the Senate during its last day in session (see Here Comes the Sun: U.S. Senate Confirms A Slew of New Ambassadors as It Runs Out the Door). But that was before the “nuclear option changed  the Senate rules.  In November 2013, the Democrats changed the rules so executive-office appointments can advance to confirmation votes by a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60-vote majority that was previously needed. Read more of that here and here.

Senator Cruz is , of course, not the first one to deploy a blanket hold to extract something from the executive branch.  We can’t remember all of them but you might recall that in 2010, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) also adopted the blanket hold in an attempt to compel the Administration to award certain defense contracts to his home state of Alabama. Not endorsing it but can understand why he would do that for Alabama.  In the current case, one is left wondering why is the $11 billion tourism industry in a foreign country more important to a sitting senator than having our top people on the ground to protect and promote American interests.

 of Bloomberg Views recently wrote that it seems unlikely that any new executive branch holds by Senator Cruz would make much difference. “Without majority support, a hold is merely a senator’s threat to use every stalling tactic available.” Don’t tear out your hair or scream yet, we’ll have until August 1st to wait and see.

Below are the State Department and USAID nominees who were cleared through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and are just waiting for the full Senate vote. We have included the dates these nominations were officially announced and the dates they were reported out of the Foreign Relations Committee.

 

Nuclear Non-proliferation Nominated: July 18, 2013
Adam M. Scheinman, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the rank of Ambassador.
Jan 15, 2014 Reported by Mr. Menendez, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.
Mauritania Nominated: September 10, 2013
Larry Edward Andre, Jr., of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
Jan 15, 2014
Timor-Leste Nominated: July 31, 2013
Karen Clark Stanton, of Michigan, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
Jan 15, 2014
Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. Nominated: September 12, 2013
Cynthia H. Akuetteh, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Gabonese Republic, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe.
Jan 15, 2014
Zambia Nominated: September 12, 2013
Eric T. Schultz, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Zambia
Jan 15, 2014
Albania Nominated: July 25, 2013
Donald Lu, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Albania.
Jan 15, 2014
Palau Nominated: July 31, 2013
Amy Jane Hyatt, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Palau.
Jan 15, 2014
Cameroon Nominated: July 30, 2013
Michael Stephen Hoza, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cameroon.
Jan 15, 2014
Sierra Leone Nominated: July 09, 2013
John Hoover, of Massachusetts, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Jan 15, 2014
Lesotho Nominated: August 01, 2013
Matthew T. Harrington, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Lesotho.
Jan 15, 2014
Namibia Nominated: July 30, 2013
Thomas Frederick Daughton, of Arizona, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Namibia.
Jan 15, 2014
Norway Nominated: September 10, 2013
George James Tsunis, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway.
Feb 04, 2014 Reported by Mr. Menendez, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.
Hungary Nomination: November 06, 2013
Colleen Bradley Bell, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Hungary.
Feb 04, 2014
Iceland Nomination: October 30, 2013
Robert C. Barber, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iceland.
Feb 04, 2014
State/VC Nominated: July 18, 2013
Frank A. Rose, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance), vice Rose Eilene Gottemoeller.
Feb 04, 2014
State/DGHR Nominated: October 04, 2013
Arnold A. Chacon, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Director General of the Foreign Service, vice Linda Thomas-Greenfield, resigned.
Feb 04, 2014
USAID/OIG Nominated: June 10, 2013
Michael G. Carroll, of New York, to be Inspector General, United States Agency for International Development, vice Donald A. Gambatesa, resigned.
Feb 04, 2014
Jamaica Nominated: September 10, 2013
Luis G. Moreno, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Jamaica.
Mar 11, 2014 Reported by Mr. Menendez, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.
New Zealand and Samoa Nomination: October 30, 2013
Mark Gilbert, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to New Zealand, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Independent State of Samoa.
Mar 11, 2014
Trinidad and Tobago Nominated: July 30, 2013
John L. Estrada, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Mar 11, 2014
Bosnia and Herzegovina Nominated: November 21, 2013
Maureen Elizabeth Cormack, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Mar 11, 2014
State/IO Nominated: October 30, 2013
Bathsheba Nell Crocker, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Organization Affairs), vice Esther Brimmer, resigned.
Mar 11, 2014
State/ASEAN Nominated: January 16, 2014
Nina Hachigian, of California, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
May 20, 2014 Reported by Mr. Menendez, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.
Bahamas Nominated: February 07, 2014
Cassandra Q. Butts, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
May 20, 2014
Czech Republic. Nominated:  March 6, 2014
Confirmed: July 23, 2014
Andrew H. Schapiro, of Illinois, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Czech Republic.
May 20, 2014
USAID Nominated: December 19, 2013
Paige Eve Alexander, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Mara E. Rudman.
May 20, 2014
Argentina Nominated: July 30, 2013
Noah Bryson Mamet, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Argentine Republic.
Jun 24, 2014 Reported by Mr. Menendez, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.
South Korea Nominated:  May 01, 2014
Mark William Lippert, of Ohio, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Korea.
Jun 24, 2014
Vietnam Nominated: May 14, 2014
Theodore G. Osius III, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Jun 24, 2014
Algeria Nominated: May 14, 2014
Joan A. Polaschik, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria.
Jun 24, 2014
USAID Nominated: April 10, 2014
Jonathan Nicholas Stivers, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Nisha Desai Biswal, resigned.
Jun 24, 2014
State/OFM Nominated:  May 01, 2014
Gentry O. Smith, of North Carolina, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service, vice Eric J. Boswell, resigned.
Jun 24, 2014
USAID Nominated: March 31, 2014
Alfonso E. Lenhardt, of New York, to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Donald Kenneth Steinberg.
Jul 16, 2014 Reported by Mr. Menendez, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.
Paraguay Nominated: June 03, 2014
Leslie Ann Bassett, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Paraguay.
Jul 16, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Americans Abroad, Congress, Federal Agencies, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Nominations, Politics, Security, Senate Hold, State Department

SFRC Clears Daniel R. Russel, Geoffrey R. Pyatt and Tulinabo Salama Mushingi

—By Domani Spero

On June 25, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the following State Department nominations:

Screen Shot 2013-06-27
Since President Obama has now announced  a nominee for the Office of Inspector General, we are presuming that Senator Cruz has not gone through with his threat to place a blanket hold on all these nominees (see After 1,989 Day-Vacancy — President Obama Nominates Steve Linick as State Dept Inspector General; also Still No Junkyard Dog? Senator Cruz Warns He’ll Place a Hold on All State Dept Nominations).  And if that’s the case, then these nominations should be up for a vote in the full Senate.

(‘_’)

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SFRC Clears Villarosa, Liberi, Mull, North, Olson, Macmanus with Looming Senate Holds

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee(SFRC)  cleared the following ambassadorial nominations on September 19, 2012.

  • Sharon English Woods Villarosa, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mauritius, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Seychelles.
  • Dawn M. Liberi, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Burundi.
  • Stephen D. Mull, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Poland.
  • Walter North, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Papua New Guinea, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Solomon Islands and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Vanuatu.
  • Richard G. Olson, of New Mexico, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Vienna Office of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the rank of Ambassador

Two nominees for UNGA were also cleared:

The Honorable John Hardy Isakson, of Georgia, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy, of Vermont, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The nominations will now go to the Senate for the full vote.

The SFRC, by the way,  just held its confirmation hearing for Ambassador Robert Beecroft (US Embassy Iraq) on September 19, so he was not included in the cleared nominees on Wednesday.  The Cable says that according to committee aides, “there was broad support for dispatching the Beecroft nomination out of committee without a formal vote so he could be confirmed this week before the Senate leaves town.”

However, all these nominees could get entangled in Senator Rand Paul’s hold.  He has reportedly placed a hold on the Olson nomination over Pakistan’s Afridi case. And according to The Cable, there is also the the ongoing dispute between Senate leadership and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) over Paul’s demand for a floor vote on his amendment to cut off all U.S. aid to Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt.

We don’t think Dr. Afridi should be in jail, but taking away what, $33 million from over a billion US aid to Pakistan, and a very public congressional pressure to released the good doctor — is not going to help much. No country, particularly one like Pakistan would like to be seen as publicly relenting to such foreign pressure, especially one coming from the United States, a perceived enemy by a great number of its population. To do so is contrary to the laws of political self preservation.  Can you imagine any US President acceding to a foreign senator’s demand to release a prisoner from one of our jails?  Of course not.

Senator Paul says, “If Pakistan wants to be our ally — and receive foreign aid — then they should act like it, and they must start by releasing Dr. Afridi.” He has more here.

Even if the elected Government of Pakistan may be amendable to releasing Dr. Afridi, it would be foolish to do so now, in the most public way. Or if it does, and it falls, who would we have next to deal with?

If screaming from the Senate chamber works perfectly in conducting foreign relations, why the heck do we have a diplomatic corps?  More congressional shock and awe is not going to help the cause of Dr. Afridi, it just drags it longer.  Senator Paul should understand this.  It’s not about him, it’s about them.  He should lift his hold so Ambassador Olson can join his embassy in Islamabad and our diplomats can do the work they need to do.

 

 

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Senator Rand Paul Blocks Olson Nomination Over Pakistani Doctor, Shakil Afridi

In our blog post on the recent confirmation of ten ambassadors (see Confirmations: Cunningham, Cretz, Malac, Armbruster, Wharton, Holtz, Laskaris, Ries, Koenig, Kirby) , we noted that it did not look like Ambassador Richard Olson’s nomination made it out of the SFRC.

In fact, his nomination did make it out of the SFRC. But according to The Cable’s Josh Rogin, there was no SFRC business meeting on the Olson and Cunningham nominations, and both were discharged from the committee and sent to the floor without the committee weighing in.

Apparently, two GOP Senate aides told The Cable that some Senate Foreign Relations Committee members were upset that the Cunningham and Olson nominations were rushed through the process and they didn’t have time to submit questions for the record and get answers. The good news is — it’s not personal, so there usually is a resolution. Excerpt below:

The concerns about Olson, who previously served as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, aren’t personal, but committee members want more detail on the would-be envoy’s proposed approach to the Haqqani network, the militant group that has been waging cross-border attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Olson promised to make the issue a priority at his July 31 confirmation hearing, but multiple senators want to use the opportunity to gauge if the administration plans to include the Haqqani network in any effort to negotiate an end to the Afghanistan war.

So the Olson nomination is on the floor but now Senator Rand Paul has placed a hold on it. More from The Cable:

For Paul, his hold on the Olson nomination is part of his overall effort to pressure the Pakistani government to release Shakil Afridi, the doctor who worked with the CIA to help positively identify Osama bin Laden. Afridi was sentenced in June to 33 years in jail for treason. Paul is not only holding up the confirmation of the U.S. ambassador, he is also threatening to force a vote to cut all U.S. aid to Pakistan over the issue, the aides said.

Paul’s office did not respond to our request for comment, but The Cable caught up with the senator himself in the hallways of the Capitol Thursday. He said he had met with the State Department and with Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman, and told them that he will keep pressing the issue unless Afridi is released. Afridi’s next hearing is Aug. 29.

Senate leadership is dead-set against letting Paul have a vote on his amendment, out of concern that senators won’t want to publicly stand up in defense of sending more American taxpayer money to Pakistan. But Paul said he plans to use Senate Rule 14 to force a vote. It’s not clear if this legislative tactic will work, but Paul is confident.

Read in full here.

The Cable surmises that there is little chance the Pakistani courts will respond to Senator Paul’s demand, “so his hold will prove useless and will probably be lifted under pressure next month.”

As to the Senate hold on Carlos Pascual’s nomination to be Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR), that one is reportedly related to the “Fast and Furious scandal,” which unfolded while he was ambassador to Mexico.  This report did not indicate who placed a hold on this nomination.  But he can be Acting A/S for ENR while awaiting confirmation; Ambassador Olson cannot be in an acting capacity for US Mission Pakistan while stuck in WashDC.

We’ll see what happens after the August break.

Domani Spero

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U.S. Senate Confirms Adam Namm as Ambassador to Ecuador – Finally!

On April 26, the U.S. Senate finally confirmed Adam Namm as the new Ambassador to Ecuador. Ambassador Namm’s nomination made it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) in November last year.  Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) at that time announced his intent to oppose the nominees for WHA, including Namm’s due to what he called this Administration’s policy towards Latin America defined by “appeasement, weakness and the alienation of our allies.”

PN887 *       Ecuador
Adam E. Namm, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Ecuador.

President Obama announced his nomination of Adam Namm on September 2011. We missed that announcement; below is the brief bio released by the WH:

Adam E. Namm is the Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) at the State Department.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister Counselor, Mr. Namm joined the Department of State in 1987.  His most recent overseas assignment was as Management Counselor in Islamabad, with prior tours in Bogota, Dhahran, and Santo Domingo.  His domestic assignments have included Executive Assistant in the Bureau of Administration, Director of the Office of Allowances, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Management, and both Desk Officer and Post Management Officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Mr. Namm holds an A.B. magna cum laude in International Relations from Brown University and an M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College.

Ambassador Louis Susman (left), Acting Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Adam Namm (right), and architect James Timberlake (middle) examine the new U.S. Embassy London model.
(U.S. Embassy London photo by SJ Mayhew/Via Flickr)

Ambassador Namm will assume charge of the US Embassy in Quito from Timothy Zúñiga-Brown who has served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Quito since July 2011, and is currently acting as Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Mr. Zúñiga-Brown previously he served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Nassau, The Bahamas.

The previous US Ambassador to Quito, career diplomat, Heather M. Hodges was appointed Chief of Mission on October 2, 2008. She departed post in April 2011 after Ecuador asked her to leave the country “as soon as possible” following the wikileaked of a diplomatic cable alleging widespread corruption within the Ecuadorean police force.

Domani Spero

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Storify: Ambassador Bryza’s Rocky Road to Baku and Back

<a href=”http://storify.com/DSatStorify/ambassador-bryza-s-rocky-road-to-baku-and-back&#8221; target=”_blank”>View the story “Ambassador Bryza’s Rocky Road to Baku and Back” on Storify</a>]

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Confirmations: Joyce Barr (State/A), Michael McFaul (Moscow), Other Nominations Remain in "Status Quo"

WH photo

During the Floor Wrap Up for Saturday, December 17, 2011, the Senate confirmed the following nominees for the State Department:

#421 Joyce A. Barr – to be Assistant Secretary of State (Administration)

#503 Michael Anthony McFaul – to be Ambassador of the US of America to the Russian Federation.

Earlier the same afternoon, Senator Reid asked for unanimous consent that the Senate take up and confirm the following nominations on the Executive Calendar but Senator McConnell objected to the request.

#421 Joyce A. Barr – to be Assistant Secretary of State (Administration)

#422 Michael A. Hammer – to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Public Affairs)

#501 Mari Carmen Aponte – to be Ambassador of the US of America to the Republic of El Salvador.

#502 Adam E. Namm – to be Ambassador of the US of America to the Republic of Ecuador.

#503 Michael Anthony McFaul – to be Ambassador of the US of America to the Russian Federation.

#504 Roberta S. Jacobson – to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Western Hemisphere Affairs),

#505 Elizabeth M. Cousens – to be Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.

#506 Elizabeth M. Cousens – to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during her tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The Majority calendar indicates that “All nominations received by the Senate during the 112th Congress, first session, will remain in status quo, notwithstanding the provisions of rule XXXI, paragraph 6, of the Standing Rules of the Senate.”

See Rule XXXI #6: Nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session at which they are made shall not be acted upon at any succeeding session without being again made to the Senate by the President; and if the Senate shall adjourn or take a recess for more than thirty days, all nominations pending and not finally acted upon at the time of taking such adjournment or recess shall be returned by the Secretary to the President, and shall not again be considered unless they shall again be made to the Senate by the President.

So, the nominees need not have to be resubmitted again, but since the GOP has blocked adjournment, there will be no official ‘recess’ and the Senate will have scheduled pro-forma sessions during the Christmas break. Which means, President Obama will not/not be able to make any recess appointments.

On the controversial recess appointees, it looks like Ambassador Aponte’s nomination (El Salvador) as well as Ambassador Bryza’s (Azerbaijan) with the late pleas are not totally dead. (Update 12/20: The Orlando Sentinel reports that Senator Reid’s office said Monday there still might be a chance to salvage Aponte’s nomination, through complex Senate procedures.” I don’t know how Ambassador Bryza’s nomination could be saved when he did not even get his SFRC hearing, much less the committee’s endorsement)

Here is a useful explanation from the CRS:

Nominations that are not confirmed or rejected are returned to the President at the end of a session or when the Senate adjourns or recesses for more than 30 days (Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6). If the President still wants a nominee considered, he must submit a new nomination to the Senate. The Senate can, however, waive this rule by unanimous consent. For example, on November 19, 1999, at the close of the first session of the l06* Congress, Majority Leader Trent Lott asked and received unanimous consent “that all nominations received by the Senate during the 10thCongress, first session, remain in status quo.” Similar agreements were reached in earlier Congresses as well. The majority leader or his designee also may exempt specific nominees by name from the agreement, allowing them to be returned during the recess or adjournment. Just before the recess between the first and second sessions of the 107th Congress, for example, the Senate by unanimous consent agreed to hold all nominations in the status quo except for one, which was returned to the President. Prior to the August recess in the 107thCongress, however, the Senate did not reach such an agreement, and 162 pending nominations were returned. President George W. Bush re-nominated many of the nominees after the recess.

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Confirm Matt Bryza: 36 Conservative Foreign Policy Experts Write to Ranking Senators

U.S. Ambassador to Baku, Matt Bryza is the last of President Obama’s recess appointments from 2010 whose nomination is snagged in the Senate
(Ambassadors Ricciardone and Eisen were confirmed while Ambassador
Aponte’s nomination was derailed this past week). Ambassador Bryza’s
nomination was held up last year by twin-pops, Senator Barbara Boxer
(D-CA) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The senators represent the concerns of their Armenian constituencies, which are
against the administration’s policy opposing a Congressional resolution
condemning the 1915 Armenian genocide.

WaPo awarded the duo, the Most Craven Election-Year Pandering at the Expense of National Interest Award.

Ambassador
Bryza is posted to Baku, Azerbaijan not Yerevan, Armenia.  But it’s
complicated since the two countries have fought in more than one war including the Nagorno-Karabakh War from 1988-1994.

Ambassador Bryza with wife, Zeyno Baran during
the 4th of July reception at
US Embassy Baku
Photo from US Embassy Baku/FB

Anyway, Senator Menendez even questioned Ambassador Bryza’s “very close ties to Turkey” because his wife is Turkish-born. That the good senator had dragged the ethnic origin of Ambassador Bryza’s wife into this confirmation fight was called shameful by the Washington Post.

In a rebuttal to WaPo, Senator Menendez writes:

“For the record, I stand by my position that Mr. Bryza is the wrong person for the job and have made public my hold in the U.S. Senate on his nomination. That position has absolutely nothing to do with the ethnic origin of his wife. It is based on information that I believe raises concerns about Mr. Bryza’s ability to remain impartial toward Azerbaijan and Turkey, including his opposition to the recognition of the Armenian genocide by Turkey and his close ties to individuals in both governments.”

Nuthintodowithit …. it’s just all politics. Surprisingly, not a lot of noise on the nomination of career diplomat, John Heffern as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia who was confirmed in September.  Ambassador Heffern also stopped short of using the “G” word during his confirmation hearing arguing
that “the characterization of those events is a policy decision that is
made by the president of the United States.” Same-o, same-o, except that he’s not married to a Turkish-American scholar.

In a letter dated December 15, 2011, 36 conservative foreign policy experts have now written to ranking senators to plead for the confirmation of Ambassador Bryza.  His recess appointment expires within a couple of weeks.

Excerpted from letter via The Cable:

Matt has conducted himself as an exemplary Ambassador to Azerbaijan, a country of growing importance to U.S. interests. He has the right combination of everything – contacts, trust, strategic vision, operational ability, leadership – everything.

Matt’s confirmation is being held up because a small minority of activists accuse him of being a “genocide-denier” – someone who denies that the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against Armenians in 1915.

United States policy under successive Administrations has been neither to affirm nor deny that a genocide occurred. Rather, it is to avoid having the United States place a label on the events that took place at the close of the Ottoman Empire, and in so doing, to help provide the best chance possible for the current states and people of Armenia and Turkey to explore their history together, and to build new relations and trade, in the interests of all people in the region.

To be sure, U.S. policy is to make clear that what happened to Armenians in the closing days of the Ottoman Empire was nothing short of mass murder and forced expulsion. Yet because U.S. policy is not to label these acts, Matt – as a career professional – has done what any professional American diplomat would do: adhere to the policy of successive U.S. Administrations and avoid labeling those acts on his own.

This in no way means Matt is insensitive to their occurrence, their nature, and their importance. And it in no way disqualifies him to serve with distinction as U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan. Indeed, such professional discipline in the face of extremely difficult and emotional issues only demonstrates his suitability to serve as Ambassador.

The signatories includes Elliott Abrams, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy; R. Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and former Ambassador to Jordan, Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, the UN, India and Russia; Randy Scheunemann,
former National Security Advisor to Senate Majority Leader and others. 

Read the full letter here.

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Filed under Ambassadors, Congress, FSOs, Nominations, Politics, Senate Hold

Ambassador Aponte’s Nomination "DeMinted" Over Old Boyfriend, LGBT Op-Ed, and [Fill in the Blank]

The Senate rejected on a 49-37 vote late Monday the cloture on the nomination of Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of El Salvador. Ambassador Aponte is the first Puerto Rican appointed as U.S. ambassador.

Ambassador Aponte
Photo from US Embassy San Salvador/FB

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid issued the following statement after Republicans blocked her confirmation:

“Senate Republicans once again put politics above policy by blocking the confirmation of a dedicated public servant. In the fifteen months Mari Carmen Aponte has served as our ambassador to El Salvador, she finalized an important international, anti-crime agreement and forged a strong partnership between our nations. The Puerto Rican community and all Americans are right to be proud of Ms. Aponte’s accomplishments as a diplomat representing our nation, as I am.

“I am disappointed Republicans continued a long-running trend of obstructing qualified nominees just to score political points. Unfortunately, defeating President Obama is more important to Senate Republicans than confirming qualified nominees to represent our country in Latin America.”

Ambassador Aponte’s chief opponent in the Senate is no other than Jim Demint, the junior senator from South Carolina and chief defender of creatures big and small except gay people.  According to CNN, Senator DeMint, writing last month in Human Events, assailed Ambassador Aponte for the op-ed and revived the old speculation about her personal life.

“Our relationship with the Salvadoran people has been one of trust and friendship for decades,” DeMint said. “We should not risk that by appointing an ambassador who shows such a blatant disregard for their culture and refuses to clear unsettled doubts about her previous relationships. It’s time to bring Ms. Aponte home.”

NYT’s Gail Collins writes a warning about The Ghosts of Boyfriends Past which should be required reading for all women with ambassadorial aspirations.

New unnerving development in Congress: Some senators are claiming that a woman nominated to be ambassador to El Salvador can’t have the job because they don’t like a boyfriend she lived with almost 20 years ago.
[...]
Whenever these things happen, the Democrats race off to try to placate the aggrieved Republican. They gave DeMint access to Aponte’s F.B.I. file, even though instances of DeMint’s being placated by anything are about as frequent as confirmed sightings of space aliens.

DeMint then complained that the file was out of date. But, by then, he seemed to be losing interest in the boyfriend issue and had moved on to fuming that while she was in El Salvador, Aponte had written an op-ed essay in a Salvadoran newspaper “lecturing their people on the need to accept and support the gay lifestyle.”

So basically, Ambassador Aponte’s nomination is derailed by the ghost of an old boyfriend, and for writing an op-ed on a policy championed by the administration she serves. But even if she did not write that op-ed, who’s to say that her nomination would not be “deminted” … after all there are other blahs to complain about …. her shoes or something…

I suppose there is still hope while Congress is in session. But time is against her.  With only a few days to go before Congress breaks for the holidays,  it seems like this nomination may now be seriously dead. 


Update:

It looks like this nomination is not quite dead yet but not sure how long this will stay in life support. Ambassador Aponte’s nomination is currently listed for reconsideration in the senate’s executive calendar dated December 17.  A few days ago, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) announced its disappointment in the Senate’s recent failure to confirm her as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador. According to its press release, “the USHCC, America’s premier Hispanic business organization and the primary
advocate for the interests of nearly three million Hispanic-owned
businesses in the United States that combined generate in excess of $420 billion annually, has been impressed with Aponte’s achievements regarding economic development in El Salvador.”

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is not the only one disappointed. Apparently, the Puerto Ricans in Florida are similarly disappointed. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) must have heard their disappointment. WaPo’s Al Kamen writes that “if it turns out that Rubio gets sufficient votes to break the
filibuster, a Senate vote would be rescheduled on Aponte’s nomination.”

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Filed under Ambassadors, Congress, People, Political Appointees, Senate Hold

Ambassador Eisen Gets to Stay at the Petschek Villa

The Senate voted 70-16 late Monday to break a Republican hold on the nomination of Norman Eisen to be ambassador to the Czech Republic.  The Senate then approved him on voice vote.

Ambassador Eisen’s recess appointment would have expired on January 5, 2012. Now he gets to stay put until after the election, or beyond depending on the outcome of the 2012 election.

Petschek Villa
Residence of the U.S. Ambassador in Prague
Photo from US Embassy Prague

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Filed under Ambassadors, Confirmed, Political Appointees, Senate Hold, U.S. Missions