Posted: 1:01 am EDT
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The Hill reports:
Sen. Ted Cruz blocked a Democratic push to approve a handful of State Department nominees on Wednesday, even though the Texas Republican is far from D.C., campaigning in New Hampshire. […] Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), however, objected to each of the nominations, noting that he was doing so on behalf of Cruz. The presidential candidate has pledged to block State Department nominees over the Iran nuclear deal. Cardin called Cruz’s objections a “master class in needless partisan obstruction.”
Last month, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) took to the floor to urge for the confirmation of the nominees for Sweden and Norway, but spoke at length on behalf of Sam Heins, the nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway who hails from her state.
Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Madam President, I rise today to call on the Senate and all of my colleagues to allow us to move forward on the nomination of Sam Heins of Minnesota to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway. The U.S. Ambassador for Sweden has also been held up. Coming from the State of Iowa, which I believe is over 10 percent Scandinavian–over 300,000 people–I think the Presiding Officer understands the importance of our country actually having Ambassadors to these incredibly important allies and nations.
It has now been 836 days since there was last a confirmed Ambassador to Norway, one of our most important European allies. Part of this situation was caused by a different nominee who has some issues with the committee and with other Senators. That person has now been replaced, and it has been 166 days since a new nominee went through the Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Heins was approved by a voice vote, without any controversy, as was the Ambassador to Sweden. I thank Senators Corker and Cardin and Senators McConnell and Reid for their help in trying to get this through.
Unfortunately, these nominations are now being held up by Senator Cruz. Based on my discussions with him, it is not because of the qualifications of these nominees; it is related to, I suppose, other issues. Yet, I note for those Scandinavians out there, Senator Cruz has allowed votes on Ambassadors to other countries. We have Ambassadors in France, in England, in nearly every European nation, but not these two Scandinavian countries.
Perhaps people don’t understand the importance of these nations because they just think these people wear sweaters all the time. I don’t know what they think of Norway and Sweden, but, in fact, Senator Cruz should understand that they are two of our best allies. Norway is one of our country’s strongest and most dependable allies.
I am focusing today on Norway. I will focus on Sweden in the future as I continue to give these speeches. I don’t think we can take these countries lightly just because it is cold there and darker in the winter. These are incredibly important allies and trading partners. They deserve to be treated like other European nations. They deserve to have an ambassador from the United States of America.
It is time to end this delay and do the work the Senate is supposed to do. Let’s move ahead and work to confirm these qualified nominees to represent us abroad. One is a country in Europe that just bought 22 fighter planes from Lockheed Martin. If they had bought 22 fighter planes from the Presiding Officer’s State, I believe the Presiding Officer would have looked at the fact that if it is a noncontroversial nominee to a country that invests in the United States of America, that is an ambassador we need to get confirmed, and we would get this done.
Read in full here (PDF) from the Congressional Record.
What difference does it make?
The jaw-jaw on the Senate floor was not yet up last night, so this one is from January. The Cruz block on the votes includes the nominations for Sweden, Norway, and “P” plus a Treasury nomination, I think.
I supposed it makes a difference to Norway, as a local magazine anxiously puts it “Norwegians may now face the scary scenario of Donald Trump sending a representative….” We know that even if this nominee somehow makes it through the Senate, he would have to hand in his resignation on January 2017.
Good! I’m sure there are no career FS officers who are of Norwegian ancestry, nor any who hail from Minnesota…typical straw-man argument for why these donors and bundlers are “uniquely qualified”.
Don’t you know that “uniquely qualified” is the best invention since white bread? It can fit just about anyone and everyone.
Frankly, I don’t see why there is a need to have a representative with Norwegian ancestry. Are we supposed to require that for every COM in every host country? Norway has been set aside for political donors. Since the 1960’s, 78.9% of ambo appointees to Norway have been political. That’s 15 out of the last 19 appointments. The practice is not going to change because the folks who can change the practice, whether Dems or GOP all benefit from it. I don’t see the 2016 elex as any different, except perhaps Sanders who does not appear to be beholden to big donors. But then again, our sitting president was similarly supported reportedly by small donors, and that did not move the appointment needle significantly down.