Senate Hold and Jam Roundup: Bryza, Ricciardone, Eisen and Ford

Four ambassadorial nominations currently snared in Senate hold and jam have been a lot in the news lately.  By far, the Bryza nomination has garnered the most ink (and passion), followed closely by the Ricciardone nomination, which has taken a rather strange turn this week with the appearance of an old fan mail from the senator blocking Ricciardone’s current nomination.   

On October 5, Wall Street Journal has criticized delays in appointing U.S. ambassadors to Azerbaijan and Turkey (Bryza and Ricciardone) in its piece, Undiplomatic Hold-ups:

 “The Senate’s confirmation powers aren’t supposed to be an excuse to indulge the pet causes of individual Members. Azerbaijan and Turkey are important American allies in a tough neighborhood, and the U.S. needs good ambassadors there. The previous ambassador in Ankara, James Jeffrey, left for Iraq in July. The embassy in Baku has been without an ambassador since July 2009.”

“Distracted by its many other troubles, the White House has declined to press the Senate to vote on the President’s appointees. The limbo these diplomats find themselves in may help Ms. Boxer’s campaign or make Mr. Brownback feel good, but it undermines the executive’s ability to function and American foreign policy.”

Read the whole thing here via Read in WSJ if you have a subscription.

US Azerbaijanis lobby ambassador-designate’s opponents (Matthew Bryza)

The US Azeris Network has written to Senator Barbara Boxer over her opposition to the appointment of Matthew Bryza as US ambassador to Azerbaijan.

“Your placing of a hold – twice – on President Obama’s nominee for the position of US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Mr Matthew Bryza, has greatly surprised and disappointed the Azerbaijani-American community, who are active members of the US Azeris Network (USAN), the largest Azerbaijani-American grassroots advocacy organization, and on whose behalf we are writing to you to express our sentiment as a community,” the diaspora letter said

Ambassadorial Vacancy Disables US Policy in Azerbaijan and Beyond
(Matthew Bryza)
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor | By Vladimir Socor

Militant Armenian Group’s Senate Allies Oppose US Ambassador To Azerbaijan
(Matthew Bryza)
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor | By Vladimir Socor

US policy in South Caucasus – real target of US Ambassador’s opponents (Matthew Bryza)
Tue 05 October 2010 06:38 GMT | 9:38 Local Time | by Vladimir Socor

“By seeking to block and derail this nomination, ANCA and its supporters are actually attempting to change US policy on the South Caucasus, in line with ANCA’s uncompromising nationalist politics. They have targeted Bryza precisely for representing US policy loyally and impartially, during more than ten years of work on the South Caucasus.”

Matthew Bryza’s not-at-all-surprisingly rough road to Baku

Foreign Policy | By Steve LeVine Wednesday, October 6, 2010 –

Some of the big U.S. newspapers — the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post — are unhappy with how ambassador-designates are being treated in the vetting process for posts in the oil- and geopolitics-soaked lands of Eurasia.

Yet the main reason for these newspapers’ angst is the ambassador’s post in Azerbaijan, which has been empty for some 14 months now. Perhaps not since the kitty-cat John Bolton was nominated to the United Nations has a designee attracted at turns such adoration and venom as Matthew Bryza, the choice of the George W. Bush and now the Obama administrations for the Baku post, as Laura Rozen has reported at Politico.

In dueling editorials published in a space of three days, the Journal and Post mourn Bryza’s woes, since two senators have used their prerogative to freeze his confirmation. Bryza is “respected by all sides” and should be “waved through the Senate,” says the Journal. Instead, the paper says, he is being held up by “Caucasian tribal obsessions” — meaning Armenian lobbyists.
Bryza is exceptionally close not only to presidents, but to a number of journalists (for the record, I have interviewed him numerous times since 1997), to whom he delivers sometimes inflated accounts of his role as a “key architect” of the triumphant Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline (an admittedly not-so-unique offense — many officials claim that mantle). Bryza sought the celebrity limelight with his 2007 Istanbul wedding, which was attended by invited senior-level Azeri and Turkish guests, and was the talk of the Turkish city.

Some colleagues attribute Bryza’s rise in the last administration to his connections to Condoleezza Rice, and have advised Bryza to work his way to the top like everyone else by serving first somewhere as a deputy chief of mission. Bryza may be right that his nearly two decades in the State Department are credential enough, but he — and the newspapers — shouldn’t be surprised at the roadblock to his confirmation.

Egyptian democracy activist praises diplomat Ricciardone

Via Politico | Laura Rozen

Egyptian American sociologist and pro-democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim told POLITICO in an interview Wednesday that he strongly endorses former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr. to become the U.S. ambassador to Turkey.

“[H]e was very popular with the Egyptian people,” Ibrahim said of Ricciardone. “He will go to all the important popular and folkloric events, they called him Sheikh Ricciardone, he would sit with the people and eat with them, and he was very popular in that respect, he was not just a diplomat, he did what we call public diplomacy and was very popular with the Egyptian people.”

But what’s this? Senator Brownback was for Ricciardone before he was against Ricciardone?

Brownback letter thanked diplomat for “great job representing America’s interests”

Here is the link to the letter from the good Senator from Kansas now running for governorship:

“I pushed hard for your confirmation because I knew in my heart that you would do a great job representing America’s interests.”

“When I heard the initial reports from the Philippines on Friday, it was reassuring to know that you were there. Your insight on the situation provided me with the information I needed to assist the family in their time of need.”

Under his signature, Senator Brownback hand-wrote: “Thank you so much Frank! You have done wonderful work!”

As Nero Wolfe would say, “phooey!”

Which led this blog to conclude that Sam Brownback loved Francis Ricciardone Jr. before he stalled his nomination for ambassadorship

“Remember “Dyslexic Heart” that awesome Paul Westerberg song from the ’90s? “Do I love you? Do I hate you? I got a dyslexic heart,” the former Replacements frontman waffled. Somebody should gift Sam Brownback the song on iTunes.”

Another Obama ambassadorial nominee held up indefinitely (Norm Eisen, Matthew Bryza)
The Cable | Josh Rogin 

Norm Eisen, President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to the Czech Republic, joins the long list of State Department nominees facing opposition in the Senate, and the path forward for his nomination is unclear at best.

Eisen, who left his post as White House ethics czar in August, is being held up by Finance Committee ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IO) over alleged actions and misrepresentations related to the June 2009 removal of Gerald Walpin as Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a position where he oversaw government programs such as AmeriCorps.
Shortly after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Eisen’s nomination on Sept. 21, sending it to the Senate floor for consideration, Grassley made his opposition known.

“I object to the proceeding to the nomination because of Mr. Eisen’s role in the firing of the
inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service, CNCS, and his lack of candor about that matter when questioned by congressional investigators,” Grassley said in a statement entered into the Congressional record.
For Bryza, his nomination is being held up by two Democrats, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who are seen to be representing the Armenian voting constituencies unhappy with the administration’s policy opposing a Congressional resolution condemning the 1915 Armenian genocide.

“It’s the policy of this administration to oppose the genocide resolution, as has been the case for past administrations,” pointed out one GOP senate staffer who supports the nomination. “It’s not his job to make this policy. Putting him in a position to oppose his own administration’s policy would get him fired.”

State Dept.: stalled ambassador nomination is impacting relations with European ally
(Norm Eisen)
The Cable | Josh Rogin

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable that the stalled Eisen nomination came up in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s bilateral meeting Wednesday with Czech First Deputy Prime Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who was in town to announce the deployment of more Czech troops to Afghanistan.

“The Czech Republic is understandably concerned about the extended absence of a U.S. ambassador,” Crowley said. “His absence does affect our relationship. The Secretary reiterated our commitment to the nomination and hopes that Mr. Eisen will be confirmed in a lame duck session.”

Grassley’s office hasn’t specified what exactly Eisen or the administration could do to encourage him to lift his hold. If he doesn’t relent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would have to file cloture and hold a roll-call vote on the nomination, which is possible but difficult due to the scarcity of floor time during the post-election Senate sessions.

US laments delay in approving envoys to Turkey, Syria
(Ricciardone, Ford)

Ford’s nomination ignited a festering row with Republicans over Obama’s signature policy of seeking to engage US foes.

If approved, Ford would be the first US ambassador to Damascus since Washington recalled its envoy after Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was killed in February 2005 in a bombing blamed on Syria.

Josh Rogin of The Cable has pointed out that the recess appointment appears out as an option for the president this year: 

The Senate adjourned for their pre-election break last week. Normally, if senators are out of town for more than 30 days, nominations would have be resubmitted and go through the committee process all over again. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) avoided that by keeping the Senate in “pro forma” session through the break (knocking the gavel ceremoniously every few days). That tactic has the collateral effect of preventing Obama from installing the nominees as “recess appointments.”

Therefore, unless Reid agrees to file for cloture on the nomination and push for 60 Senate votes, the process will stall. Reid isn’t likely to take the time to push forward the nominations in the brief lame duck sessions post election, so Eisen, Ford, Ricciardone, and Bryza probable shouldn’t pack their bags until at least next year.