Senators Grassley and Cotton Now Have 25 @StateDept Nominations Glued Down, and Going Nowhere

Posted: 2:58 am EDT
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In early August, Senator Chuck Grassley  (R-IA) placed a hold on the nomination of David Malcolm Robinson, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who was nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for the floundering Conflict and Stabilization Operations bureau. He also placed a hold on 20 Foreign Service mid-level nominees, something we don’t often see (see Senate Judiciary Sets Sight on Allegations Over Huma Abedin’s State Dept Employment, Senate Hold OnSenator Grassley Places Hold on 20 FSO Nominations Over Clinton Inquiry).

On September 30, Senator Grassley added a hold on the nomination of Brian Egan, the nominee for Legal Adviser at the State Department. The previously confirmed Legal Adviser was Harold Hongju Koh who left the State Department in early 2013. Mr. Egan has now waited at least 636 days for his senate confirmation.

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On October 5,  Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) added to the confirmation logjam by placing a hold on three ambassadorial nominees, apparently until “the administration shows it is taking steps to punish Secret Service staff involved in leaking unflattering information about a lawmaker.” According to WaPo, Cotton also said he will consider blocking more nominees if the administration refuses to fully investigate and discipline the Secret Service staff.

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You might wonder what do these ambassadorial nominations have to do with the Secret Service? Why, nothing at all.  The Secret Service is under the Department of Homeland Security and the subject of the Cotton hold are nominees for the State Department.  That distinction hardly matters in today’s Washington, D.C.. Remember in July last year when Senator Cruz deployed a blanket hold over the FAA’s prohibition of U.S. airlines flying to or from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport? (See The Fault in Our Skies: Senator to Deploy Blanket Senate Hold Over DOS Nominees Cuz FAA). Right.  The Cotton hold are on three political appointees who have been waiting for senate confirmation between 141 days to 836 days.

There apparently is also a secret hold for the USAID administrator nominee but no one has officially filed a notice of his/her intent to object to the Gayle Smith’s nomination. Devex reported back in July that her nomination has hit a snag. Below is a list of nominees who are subject to a hold.

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Here is an updated list of nominees waiting for a full Senate vote as of October 1, 2015:

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Obama Nominates Minnesota Donor Samuel D. Heins as Next Ambassador to Norway

Posted: 2:41 am EDT
Updated: 2:28 pm PDT
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On May 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Minnesota lawyer Samuel D. Heins, as the next Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway. The WH released the following brief bio:

Samuel D. Heins most recently served as a Partner at Heins Mills & Olson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1994 to 2013.  Mr. Heins was a Partner at Opperman Heins and Paquin from 1989 to 1994, a Partner at Tanick and Heins from 1976 to 1989, and an Associate Attorney at the Firestone Law Firm from 1973 to 1976.  In 1983, Mr. Heins founded Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, where he served as First Chair and continues to serve as a member.  He is a Board Member of the Ploughshares Fund, Trustee of the PEN American Center, and Board Member and Vice Chair of the Center for Victims of Torture, which he co-founded.  He previously served as a Board Member and Vice President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.  Mr. Heins received a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Mr. Heins (and his wife Stacy) are listed by the NYT as one of President Obama’s top fund-raisers in 2011/2012. Also click here to see additional data from  LittleSis.

If confirmed, Mr. Heins would succeed Boston lawyer Barry B. White who was Ambassador to Norway from 2009-2013.  Career diplomat Julie Furuta-Toy has served as chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Oslo since Ambassador White’s departure in September 2013.

As of this writing, the nominees for ambassadors to the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Finland and Sweden, all political appointees, have waited between 200-450 days for their confirmation hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Career diplomats nominated as ambassadors to South Sudan, Mali,  Latvia, Kyrgyzstan and Guyana have waited between 229-282 days.  It does not look like the SFRC is in any hurry to confirm anyone clear anyone’s nomination. Next week, eight nominees are scheduled to appear before the panel for their confirmation hearings. 

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