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So, Congress has been back in session for a week but not for long. We’re now counting the days when our representatives will run off to full campaign mode for the November election.
Meanwhile, we have not seen any significant movement in the confirmation of the State Department nominees, particularly the ambassadorial appointments stuck in the Senate since forever. Apparently, the world’s greatest deliberative body is now unable to deliberate with sense and harmony. Who best should pay the price than the ambassadorial nominees, because why not? It’s not like anyone of the nominees can appeal to a higher order.
Last September 11, the Senate did confirm John Hoover as our ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone. That’s the country with a serious outbreak in Ebola. He only waited 428 days. And he was not even the longest wait on the calendar. Mr. Daughton, a career diplomat nominated for our embassy in Namibia has been waiting the longest at 443 days as of this writing. Mr. Harrington, another career diplomat nominated for Lesotho has been waiting 411 days and recently saw his post go on ordered departure (for family members) due to a coup; he presumably watched it all unfold from over 8,000 miles at his temporary desk in the District of Columbia!
Here are some of the other nominees stuck longest, to-date, in confirmation purgatory:
image via afsa.org with diplopundit annotation
The State Department “T” family also has two nominees awaiting confirmation for over 400 days. Here’s their boss, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security tweeting on the day Congress returned to work, and again, a few days later:
There are currently 153 nomination pending on the Senate’s Executive Calendar. According to FP, some 65 State Department nominations are pending in the Senate, 39 of which have made it out of SFRC and onto the Senate floor. Of the 65, 26 are stuck in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The names are listed here.
If the Senate refuses to confirm these nominees, we think President Obama should just appoint them as his Special Presidential Envoys to their respective countries and send them off packing the next day. Never mind Congress.
Yup, that sounds craaazzy!
But … but… no more crazy than the Senate holding on to these nominations for over a year or months on end and leaving our diplomatic missions without the selected representatives of the President. So maybe a tad more crazy is what Congress seriously needs.
Look, there are special envoys and there are special envoys. True that they are the “personal representatives of the President.” For most of them, this is a technical credential accorded their status. The State Department currently has about 40 special envoys, reps and senior advisors. For others, like Edward House, also known as Colonel House, and President Wilson’s chief advisor on European politics and diplomacy during World War I (1914-18), they really do represent the President personally. You may remember that Colonel House did not even go through a Senate confirmation process; he just went about his work per instruction from the President. So it’s not like this had never been done before.
Certainly, a mass appointment of Special Presidential Envoys would be a bad precedent. We are also pretty sure our U.S. Senate would be terribly unhappy and offended if President Obama simply announce the appointments of five dozen Special Presidential Envoys in place of his ambassadors. And without the advice and consent of the Senate. Of course, they would!
(Gosh! If this happens,we would missed a whole lot of informative and entertaining performances on C-Span).
That said, if our senators cannot do kumbaya work for the sake of the United States, if they continue trading blame on why the nominees are stuck in the Senate, and if they kept on putting party before country, why then should we mind if they are offended and get ulcers?
Go ahead, President Obama … make our day!
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