Trump’s New Liaison to Hill Conservatives: ‘Go after the State Department folks, too … Let’s go after the Foreign Service”

Posted: 3:35 am ET
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“Go after the State Department folks too. Everybody talks about the civil service domestically, but no one talks about the Foreign Service. Let’s go after the Foreign Service.”

–Paul Teller
Trump Liaison to Congressional Conservatives
William F. Buckley Jr. Council – November 2016

 

Full talk via vox.com, at 27 min mark: https://soundcloud.com/cnp-786867471/william-f-buckley-jr-council-november-2016

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Senate Bill to Slash Embassy Security Funds in Half Until US Embassy Jerusalem Officially Opens

Posted: 2:22 am ET
Updated: Jan 12, 4:55 PM PT
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Apparently, a viral image created by the group called the Other 98 with three Republican senators who once blasted lax embassy security in Benghazi, Libya made the social media rounds recently and readers asked @PolitiFact to check it out. “The image includes pictures of three Republican senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Dean Heller of Nevada and Marco Rubio of Florida — along with the caption, “The same 3 senators who have spent the last 3 years s——- themselves over ‘Benghazi!’ just introduced a bill to reduce embassy security by 50 percent.” PolitiFact judged the meme “mostly false” but this blogpost was accused of being a “fake news’. We’ve re-read our reporting on this issue and there’s nothing that we feel needs a correction. For those who are new in this blog, you can read our post below, and you can also read the similar points made by PolitiFact here.    

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On January 3,  Senator Dean Heller (R-NV)  announced that he, along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), have introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, “legislation that would fulfill America’s commitment to Israel to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.‎”

Excerpt from Heller’s announcement:

“My support for Israel is unwavering.  From my very first days as a United States Senator, I have prioritized the strengthening of the important relationship shared between Israel and the United States. That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act. For years, I’ve advocated for America’s need to reaffirm its support for one of our nation’s strongest allies by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.  It honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill. While Administrations come and go, the lasting strength of our partnership with one of our strongest allies in the Middle East continues to endure. My legislation is a testament to that.

The announcement quotes Senator Marco Rubio: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that’s where America’s embassy belongs. It’s time for Congress and the President-Elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore U.S. law and delay our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades.”

It also says that Heller’s bill “withholds certain State Department funds until that relocation is complete.”

That is some understatement.  The bill does not withhold just any State Department funds but embassy security funds.

This is a similar bill Senator Heller had introduced in the 112th, 113th, and 114th Congress. The version of the bill introduced but died in the 114th Congress includes the provision to restrict State Department funding in FY2015, FY2016, and FY2017 and the following language:

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2015 for ``Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” may be obligated until the Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

The current bill, S.11, which had been read twice and referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee includes the elimination of the waiver and similar language on funding restriction but targets a specific State Department funding — not funds for the “Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” but for “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance.” The bill further includes restrictions for all security, construction, and maintenance funding worldwide for FY2018 and FY2019 except for the embassy in Tel Aviv until its relocation.

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2017 under the heading  “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance” may be obligated until the  Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

Just so we’re clear, three American senators including those who were screaming #BENGHAZI for the last several years have put forward a bill that would freeze half the State Department funding on embassy security until the new secretary of state reports to Congress that the US Embassy in Jerusalem has “officially opened.”

Writing for FP, Hussein Ibish, Senior Resident Scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington writes:

Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue between Israelis and Palestinians, as the outbreak of the Second Intifada and other repeated instances in which it has served as a uniquely potent flash point have illustrated. Jerusalem brings together religious, nationalistic, symbolic, and ethnic sensibilities in a singularly powerful and dangerous mix. […] Along with other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the leading Gulf Arab states would almost certainly feel it necessary to practically demonstrate their objections to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy by finding some means of reasserting Palestinian, and even broader Christian and Muslim, claims on Jerusalem — and the most likely fallout would be a curtailment of security cooperation with Israel on matters concerning Iran’s nefarious activities in the Middle East. Adding such an additional layer of tension between Israel and the Arab states would be an enormous gift to Tehran and its regional alliance.

Since officially opening the US Embassy in Jerusalem could not happen overnight, this bill with its restrictions on embassy security funding would put all American diplomats and family members overseas at greater risks. At a time when embassy security could be most crucial, only 50 percent of appropriated State Department  embassy security, construction, and maintenance funds may be obligated.

Get that?

So with only half the embassy security funds obligated, what happens to our 275 posts overseas? Half gets the funds and the other half doesn’t? Reduced funding across the board? Do these good senators realized that the unfunded parts could get Americans killed? They don’t know? How could they not know? That leaves us with two troubling guesses — that they know but don’t care, or that they know this bill won’t go anywhere but its worth squeezing the juice, anyway.

Oops, is that our jaded slip showing?

We should point out that similar bills were introduced previously by Senator Heller, and they all died in committee. This bill, however, now has the support of  Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). The two need no special introductions.

 

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The Back Room Deals That Got Roberta Jacobson Confirmed to be Ambassador to Mexico

Posted: 9:22 am PT
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According to WaPo, it took weeks of complex backroom dealing involving two key senators, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, former rivals in the Republican presidential primaries to end their hold on the Jacobson nomination.

As part of the deal, the State Department will have to produce 40 new reports a year on issues as diverse as Hong Kong autonomy, religious freedom and anti-Semitism. Government officials in Venezuela will face three more years of sanctions.

Security upgrades at U.S. embassies around the world will be mandated, including in war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen, where there is no U.S. diplomatic presence now. U.S. diplomats at the United Nations will have to work to end sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers. And there will be a new push in Congress to rename the street in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington for a prominent Chinese dissident.

Basically, the WH got a deal to get an ambassador to Mexico whose entire tenure will be shorter than the length of her 11-month confirmation wait. If she gets to Mexico this month, that will give the new ambassador barely six months to settle in Mexico City and just in time to cast her vote as an overseas voter in the 2017 presidential election. Like all presidential appointees, she will be obligated to tender her resignation on the golden hours between the election of a new president in November 2016 and when the new president is sworn into office in January 2017.

The resignations of career appointees to chiefs of mission positions are traditionally declined by the incoming administration whereas resignations of political and noncareer ambassadors are typically almost always accepted. Ms. Jacobson is a career civil servant at the State Department but is not a member of the career Foreign Service, and therefore considered a noncareer appointee. If there is a Trump WH — gosh, who knows how will ambassadorial appointments blow up —  in all likelihood, noncareer appointees will be replaced with Trump’s noncareer appointees.  If there is a Clinton WH, the new ambassador may be allowed to stay on like the rest of the career appointees already appointed worldwide but it’s worth noting that the Clinton world will definitely have a lengthy ambo wish list from supporters and bundlers.

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Related posts:

 

 

Senate Confirmations: Shannon, Egan, Raji, Heins, Estrada, McKean, and Marciel

Posted: 2:55  pm EDT
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After a long wait, State Department nominees who were snared in a senate hold by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) were finally confirmed in a voice vote today before Congress left for the Presidents Day break. The Senate will next convene at 3:00pm on Monday, February 22nd.

Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Ambassador, to be an Under Secretary of State (Political Affairs).

Brian Egan to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State

Azita Raji, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Sweden.

Samuel D. Heins, of Minnesota, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway.

John L. Estrada, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

David McKean, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg.

Also confirmed is President Obama’s nominee Sunil Sabharwal to be U.S. Alternative Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Why did Senator Cruz relent and what did he get in exchange for lifting the hold?  Via Roll Call:

As the hold on the State Department nominees was lifted, Cruz managed to secure Senate passage, also by voice vote, of a measure to designate the area outside the new Chinese Embassy along Van Ness Street in Northwest D.C., as the “Liu Xiaobo Plaza.” That would honor the pro-democracy leader and longtime political prisoner.

On February 9, the U.S. Senate also confirmed  Scot Alan Marciel, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Union of Burma.

Meanwhile, another presidential candidate and sitting senator continue his hold on President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Mexico over, you know, the most perfect excuse, Cuba:

 

Other confirmations:

2016-02-11 PN1085 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Virginia Lynn Bennett, and ending Susan M. Cleary, which 193 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 19, 2016.

2016-02-11 PN830 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Christopher Alexander, and ending Tipten Troidl, which 28 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 10, 2015.

2016-02-11 PN573-5 Foreign Service | Nomination for Christopher Nairn Steel, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 10, 2015.

For the Millennium Challenge Corporation

2016-02-11 PN1039 Millennium Challenge Corporation | Morton H. Halperin, of the District of Columbia, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation for a term of two years.

2016-02-11 PN1040 Millennium Challenge Corporation | Michael O. Johanns, of Nebraska, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation for a term of three years.

 

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Senator Cruz Blocks @StateDept Nominees While on Campaign Trail

Posted: 2:19 am EDT
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Last week —

So that’s now the third time for the last several days and counting. Duck Dynasty commander and Senator Ted Cruz has pledged to block State Department nominees over the Iran nuclear deal. He had previously conveyed his threat to hold all State Department nominations over the Iran deal in July 2015 (see letter to POTUS here – PDF). He wants the oval office, we don’t think a duck gumbo would work here.

 

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From Oslo: Norwegians may now face the scary scenario of Donald Trump sending an ambassador

Posted: 3:37 am EDT
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Agenda Magasin, an online magazine for political analysis and commentary based in Oslo recently published, “Congress, send Norway an ambassador” by Thor Steinhovden. Below is an excerpt:

Norway has never gone this long without an American ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo. Norwegians may now face the scary scenario of Donald Trump sending a representative, three years too late.
[…]
In September 2013 the American Ambassador to Norway, Barry White, completed his posting and left the country. 840 days later the United States has yet to send a replacement. That’s more than 120 weeks, or over two years and three months. Now, Norway risks having to wait until spring 2017. In other words, our closest ally will then have neglected to send a presidential representative for over three years.

The story behind this failure is complicated, but illustrates a political situation in the U.S. that is crippling the president’s ability to effectively carry out foreign policy. The story includes a failed nomination, “The Nuclear Option”, the P5+1 Iran deal, and not at least, the race for 2016.
[…]
For many Norwegians it probably seems both odd and incomprehensible that one of the world’s superpowers cannot manage such a simple task as to deploy an ambassador to a close ally like Norway. It becomes more incomprehensible when one considers the fact that the hold-up is not related to neither the candidate, nor the bilateral relationship.

If Donald Trump or Ted Cruz then occupy the White House, Norway may find itself welcoming a completely different character than Sam Heins. I believe most Norwegians agree with me that it is probably best for all of us if we avoid that scenario. It is time: Congress, send Norway an ambassador!

Read in full here.  A Norwegian-language version of this commentary is also available.

The article is a pretty good account of what happened to the nominations dating back to 2013 when the initial nominee melted down on C-SPAN.

We don’t know if the Heins nomination will  make it through the Senate, but even if it does get a full vote, and Mr. Heins gets to Oslo, this is an election year. There will be a new occupant in the White House come January 2017. All ambassadors –including Mr. Heins if he gets confirmed this year — resign their positions following a change in Administration. The resignations of career ambassadors are typically almost always refused, while those of political appointees are almost always accepted.  Which means, unless the nominations of political ambassadorships get confirmed soon, the window of opportunity is winding down. At some point, it becomes a waste of resources to pack and ship an ambassador designate’s household effects if he/she gets to serve as chief of mission for only a few months; that is, only to pack out again after the November 2016 elections.  Of course, it can be done, we just can’t recall an example, but would folks really subject themselves to such a relocation for a short-term ambassadorship? We’ll have to wait and see.

 

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Senator on Cruz hold over Norway nominee: 836 days since there was last a confirmed Ambassador to Norway

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.
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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.

 

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