Congress gives board sitter nominations "expedited procedures" but not ambassadorial nominations? C’mon …

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had cleared the nominations of multiple nominees for the State Department. If Congress gets its head screwed right, these nominees would have their confirmation by the full Senate already. But you know how it is. With the clock running out, some nominees on recess appointments may have to pack their bags and return home, and some nominations will have to be resubmitted next year. While some may actually get confirmed before our lawmakers go home for the holidays, I’d rather not hold my breath. The Senate has stuff on its schedule until December 15 but that’s only days away.

Anyway, on nominations — multiple board sitters (for the National Council on the Arts, United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, the Board of Trustees of the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation, and others) are listed in the December 7 Executive Calendar as “PRIVILEGED NOMINATIONS” that is, pursuant to S. Res. 116, 112th Congress, nominations labeled as such are entitled to expedited procedures.

It is as clear as day now — board sitters are definitely way, way more important than ambassadors.

Under the “may have to pack their bags and return home” category:

Norman L. Eisen, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Czech Republic, to which position he was appointed during the recess of the Senate from December 22, 2010, to January 5, 2011.

This nomination was cleared for the second time by the SFRC on Sep 13, 2011.  On September 19, 2011, Senator Grassley had filed a NOITO, which sounds naughty and all :-).  When a NOITO or notice of intent to object is given to the appropriate leader, or their designee, and such notice is submitted for inclusion in the Congressional Record and the Senate Executive Calendar, or following the object ion to a unanimous consent to proceeding to, and, or disposition of, matters relating to nominations and treaties on their behalf, it shall be placed in the section of the Senate Executive Calendar entitled “Notice of Intent to Object”. (S. Res. 28, 112th Congress).

At least Senator Grassley is on the record about his objection to this nomination — something to do with the June 2009 removal of Gerald Walpin as Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). See more from The Cable here.

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Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of El Salvador,  to which position she was appointed during the recess of the Senate from December 22, 2010, to January 5, 2011.

During Ambassador Aponte’s 2010 confirmation hearing South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint led the charge against Aponte raising several “issues” including a relationship she had with a Cuban American more than 15 years ago. I don’t recall GOP congressional folks ever giving male nominees the same third degree burn treatment over old romances.

Her nomination together with that of Ambassadors Eisen (Czech Republic), Ricciardone (Turkey), Bryza (Azerbaijan) and Ford (Syria) were held up. Ambassador Ford was eventually confirmed and the other four were given recess appointments by President Obama. Ambassador Ricciardone had since been confirmed.

A side note — Ambassador Bryza’s nomination has not been cleared by the SFRC and is still in committee, but is already subject to two Senate holds, and a tug of war between Armenian-Americans and Azerbaijani-Americans.

Back to US Mission El Salvador, in June this year, Ambassador Aponte wrote an op-ed in El Salvador’s La Prensa Gráfica titled “For an end to prejudice, wherever it exists”.

Apparently, echoing Secretary Clinton’s “gay rights are human rights” got Ambassador Aponte right smack into the crosshairs of Senator Demint (again); he who is a great defender of human rights for straight people only:


Under the “don’t pack your bags yet” category is the nominee to be Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Michael Anthony McFaul, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Russian Federation (Nov 29, 2011 Reported by Mr. Kerry, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report).

Josh Rogin of the Cable confirmed last week that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) placed a hold on the nomination Mike McFaul. The reason for the hold?  Senator Kirk apparently “wants written assurances that the United States will not provide Russia with any currently classified information on the missile defense system.”

On November 29, the following nominations made it out of the SFRC:

Roberta S. Jacobson, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Western Hemisphere Affairs), vice Arturo A. Valenzuela, resigned.

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.

In late November, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he will oppose the nomination of Roberta Jacobson to be the assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Rubio also said that he reserve his right to block or vote against any other future Western Hemisphere nominees “until the Administration takes meaningful action to change its policies,” which the senator described as one “defined by appeasement, weakness and the alienation of our allies.”

Senator Rubio also said he would oppose the confirmation of Mari Carmen Aponte as ambassador to El Salvador and Adam Namm as ambassador to Ecuador. The WHA problem, see?

That leaves us three other nominees who made it through the SFRC hearings and awaiting confirmation by the full Senate without any apparent snags that we know of at this time:

Joyce A. Barr, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Assistant Secretary of State (Administration), vice Rajkumar Chellaraj, resigned. (Oct 12, 2011 Reported by Mr. Kerry, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report).

Michael A. Hammer, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Public Affairs), vice Philip J. Crowley, resigned. (Oct 12, 2011 Reported by Mr. Kerry, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report).

Elizabeth M. Cousens, of Washington, to be Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador. (Nov 29, 2011 Reported by Mr. Kerry, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.)

Elizabeth M. Cousens, of Washington, 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 (Nov 29, 2011 Reported by Mr. Kerry, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.)

There are over a dozen nominees for the State Department who are currently pending in committee. As of this writing, no nomination hearings are scheduled at the SFRC for next week.

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