United States Senate of Disaster. Confirmed.

— Domani Spero
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So last night, the Senate did a few more selective confirmation, then ran out the door for the real fun stuff (see Sorry FSOs: Senate Confirms Lippert, O’Malley, Nell Crocker, Scheinman, Holleyman and Lenhardt).  There are more than 30 ambassadorial nominations pending in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plus nominations and promotions of career employees awaiting Senate approval.  About three dozens nominees for State/USAID/BBG are stuck on the Senate’s Executive Calendar.

No career diplomat made the confirmation cut during the Senate’s last day in session. Which means, a good number of them will have to wait for confirmation during the lame duck session. Because things will definitely change then. Or not. Failing that, they all presumably will be renominated at the start of the new Congress in 2015, and things will definitely work better then. Or not.

Perplexing thing, though … just the other day, during the Benghazi Select Committee hearing, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress exchanged so many thank-yous “it could have been the Oscars” according to WaPo’s Dana Milbank. At the end of the hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) recalled the four dead Americans, “I want to adjourn in memory of Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Ty Woods and Glen Doherty,” he said. We missed this but according to WaPo, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D- Md.) reportedly also “embraced the theme” saying, “We are Americans … everybody trying to do the best they can to protect our people.”

We missed the group hug but see, they really do care about the career people we send out overseas. Except when they don’t.

In fairness, we must note that the Senate did a full plate of legislative business during its last session including the following:

Adopted S.Res.574: National Estuaries Week

Adopted S.Res.575: Prostate Cancer Awareness

Adopted S.Res.566: South Dakota 125th Anniversary

Adopted S.Res.420 – Naturopathic Medicine Week

Passed S.2040 – Blackfoot River Land Exchange

Passed S.2061 by voice vote – Preventing Conflicts of Interest with Contractors Act

Passed S.2583 – E-Label Act

Passed S.2778 – Secretary of State Reward for Information

 

Clearly, “everybody trying to do the best they can to protect our people “… does not include protecting our people from the Congress.  One might start to think that our elected representatives do not really care about our embassies and career diplomats, they just like saying so when they want to hear themselves talk.

So what if career diplomats are stuck in the Oakwood apartments in waiting mode for a year going on two years?

So what if an embassy has not had an ambassador for over 400 days?

You think the Senate might care more if its a place they want to visit for their next CODEL like Seoul or Paris?  Maybe, but holy guacamole, who’s been on a CODEL to Albania or Timor-Leste in the last 12 months? Anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senate “Nuclear” Fallout Snares State Department Nominees

— Domani Spero

CNN reports that the partisan battle over presidential nominations is heating up again and threatens to dominate the remaining days before the winter recess.  The Senate Republicans, reportedly are still angry over filibuster changes Democrats made last month, and have blocked “a series of largely non-controversial nominations Democrats tried to clear.”

On December 9, 2013, Senator Harry Reid asked for unanimous consent to confirm all Executive and Judicial nominations on the Executive Calendar. Senator Lamar Alexander objected to the request.

We can’t say how long long or how intense this battle is going to be. What we know is it has already snared dozens of State Department nominees.  Senator Reid filed cloture on 10 executive nominations.  Under the rule, the first cloture vote will occur one hour after the Senate convenes on Wednesday, December 11th. Among the 10 nominees are Heather Anne Higginbottom, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and Anne W. Patterson, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Ambassador, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Near Eastern Affairs).  

Below is a list of nominees for State, Peace Corps, Ex-Import Bank submitted by Senator Reid for unanimous consent:

STATE DEPARTMENT

#403 Frank A. Rose – to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance)

#404 Tomasz P. Malinowski – to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

#406 Anne W. Patterson – to be an Assistant Secretary of State (NearEastern Affairs)

#407 Rose Eilene Gottemoeller – to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

#408 Crystal Nix-Hines – for the rank of Ambassador during her tenure of service as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

#409 Pamela K. Hamamoto – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, with the rank of Ambassador

#410 Adam M. Scheinman – to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the rank of Ambassador

#412 Brian A. Nichols – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Peru

#413 Mark Bradley Childress – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Republic of Tanzania

#414 Carlos Roberto Moreno – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Belize

#415 John Hoover – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Sierra Leone

#416 Timothy M. Broas – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of the Netherlands

#417 Donald Lu, of California – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Albania

#418 Robert A. Sherman – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Portuguese Republic

#420 Thomas Frederick Daughton – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Namibia

#422 Michael Stephen Hoza – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cameroon

#423 Eunice S. Reddick – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Niger

#424 Karen Clark Stanton – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

#425 Matthew T. Harrington – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Lesotho

#426 Dwight L. Bush, Sr. – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Morocco

#440 Daniel W. Yohannes – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of Ambassador

#441 Elizabeth Frawley Bagley – to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

#442 Theodore Strickland – to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

#443 Stephen N. Zack – to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

#444 Heather Anne Higginbottom – to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources

#445 Sarah Sewall – to be an Under Secretary of State (Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights)

#446 Richard Stengel – to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy

#448 Anthony Luzzatto Gardner – to be Representative of the United States of America to the European Union, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

#449 Amy Jane Hyatt – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Palau

PEACE CORPS

#447 Carolyn Hessler Radelet – to be Director of the Peace Corps

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF THE UNITED STATES

#388 Wanda Felton – to be First Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States for a term expiring January 20, 2017 (Reappointment)

 * * *

Senate Finally Confirms Ambassador Aponte, and She Just Unpacked Her Household Effects!

On June 14, cloture was invoked on Executive Calendar #501, the nomination of Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of El Salvador, upon reconsideration, by a vote of 62-37.  The Senate subsequently confirmed the Aponte nomination by voice vote.

President Obama released a statement on the confirmation of Ambassador Aponte.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also issued this statement.

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Holy mother of goat and all her crazy nephews at the Senate!

The Senate thumbed down this nomination in December 2011 so when her recess appointment ran out, she left El Salvador in January 2012. Which probably meant she spent her holidays packing out. So then she got back to the U.S. and presumably had to wait weeks for her household effects to arrive from San Salvador. Then she had to spend weeks unpacking all the boxes and putting stuff away. And just as she was done with that, the Senate decided to confirm her. And so she’s going back to El Salvador. Which means, she’s going to be packing out again. And unpacking once she gets to San Salvador. And who knows what happens in November 2012?

What a wasteful group of people working for us in the more deliberative and more prestigious body in the Congress.  All that cost money, you guys! Couldn’t you have made up your mind in December and saved on shipping boxes and relocation expenses?

Ambassador Aponte’s nomination was previously held up by Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). DeMint was demanding more information about Aponte’s ancient boyfriend (see Ambassador Aponte’s Nomination “DeMinted” Over Old Boyfriend, LGBT Op-Ed, and [Fill in the Blank].  Marco Rubio apparently had some issues with WHA policies.

In the June 14 vote, Marco “if I do a good job as vice president” Rubio switched sides and voted for Ambassador Aponte’s confirmation.  Don’t know why.  Must be because the Rubio hold forced the Obama Administration to change its WHA policies.  Quit laughing, yep, that must be it.  Senators Lugar, McCain, Ayotte, Graham also voted for Aponte’s confirmation.  Senator DeMint got tired of holding the Senate hold (like the figure four leglock), so he and 36 other GOP senators voted against confirmation.

Would it be too much to ask for our Senators to cast their votes based on the qualifications of the nominees instead of a party line vote? After all, the person we’re sending out to represent us is out there representing the United States of America, not Blue America or Red America.

Ambassador Aponte has not changed in six months.  She’s still the same person with the same baggage of an old boyfriend, and her LGBT op-ed has not been rewritten to be more palatable.  So nothing has changed except the Senators’ minds and the games they play.

Domani Spero