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July 6, 2015

Republicans Block Many Ambassador Nominations in ‘Nuclear Option’ Fallout (Updated)

Menendez sought consent to confirm 25 ambassadors, including ambassadors to Russia and Guatemala. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Menendez sought consent to confirm 25 ambassadors, including ambassadors to Russia and Guatemala. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:07 p.m. | The Senate may not be confirming nominees to posts in a slew of countries before departing for the August recess, but after some  procedural maneuvering, the U.S. will be getting a top diplomat in Russia.

Senators confirmed the nomination of John F. Tefft by voice vote as the chamber finished evening business after he faced objection to confirmation by unanimous consent earlier in the night.

The Senate’s nuclear fallout continued as the chamber worked into the night leading up until the break that will see no roll call votes until September 8. Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez faced a GOP objection to confirming a batch of 25 career foreign service officers to various ambassadorships, including President Barack Obama’s choice of Todd D. Robinson for the top diplomatic post in Guatemala, one of the key countries in the current crisis involving unaccompanied minors at the Southwest border.

Perhaps most ironically, the batch of nominees not confirmed includes Adam M. Scheinman, Obama’s pick to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, foiled by a nuke of a different kind — the one that led to elimination of the supermajority needed to end filibusters of most nominees.

The news won’t sit well in the administration. Secretary of State John Kerry went public with pleas for confirmation of State Department officials.

Menedez also made separate requests to confirm U.S. ambassadors to Russia and South Korea. At that point, the nomination for the post in Russia didn’t move. The nominee for South Korea, Mark Lippert, is a political appointee, but Tefft is a career foreign service officer.

Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., objected to the various requests from the New Jersey Democrat, referring to last November’s move by Senate Democrats to effectively change the rules using the “nuclear option.”

“We used to pass ambassadors and all kinds of people en bloc like that, but we have this nuclear option now that the majority chose so it takes a little longer to do that whole process, and on that basis, I object,” Enzi said.

“The criteria for confirming nominees should not be determined by a sudden, just-breaking crisis with the urgent need to fill a vacant post,” Menendez said. “Confirmation by crisis is not a strategy, and it is not in the national security interests of the United States.”

“You know, I don’t know about nuclear options. I do know about national security,” Menendez said, adding that he had pulled out a list of only career nominees, rather than including political nominees.

Enzi expanded on his objections after Menendez made a second try at the Robinson nomination.

“The majority leader … hasn’t chosen to bring these up in the normal order,” Enzi said. “Instead, asking to bring them up en bloc. my college roommate was a career ambassador, and I helped him get assignments and brought a lot of people through en bloc at the same time. But that was before we did the nuclear option.”

To be sure, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could file cloture to limit debate on any of these or the slew of other nominations pending at the arrival of recess. However, that move would require having senators remain in town in August or burn through limited time in September.

Comments (14)

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  1. MrBeale

    July 31, 2014
    11:05 p.m.

    I keep thinking my opinion of Congressional Republicans can’t possibly sink any lower. They keep finding new ways to prove me wrong.

  2. ggm281

    July 31, 2014
    11:38 p.m.

    “The Senate may not be confirming nominees to posts in a slew of countries before departing for the August recess”

    I just read elsewhere that the Senate had already adjourned and left for recess.


    Aug. 1, 2014
    1:05 a.m.

    The Republican senate has been a disaster for our country and people. They have failed to agree on almost all proposals and bills that would have benefited woman, the poor, minorities, gay community, and the unemployed. While they worked feverously on behalf of big business and special interest groups, they failed the more than three million unemployed families without unemployment benefits since late last December. These millions of families have fallen into financial ruin and deep poverty over the past seven months. The republicans have proven not care about these groups, especially the three million of these unemployed families. While they vote for foreign aid and corporate welfare, these families are still suffering WITHOUT an extension bill that would help them climb out of the financial ruin that the republicans lack of action had caused them to fall into by not passing the unemployment retro extension bill..

    • Geoffrey Huff

      Aug. 2, 2014
      7:46 p.m.

      There is no GOP Senate, it’s controlled by leftist trash like Reid who won’t being bills to the floor and a leftist media that doesn’t report his obstruction. But by all means don’t let facts spoil your ignorance. And BTW, where exactly in The Constitution are all of those things? You are proof stupidity should be painful.

      • Tip

        Aug. 4, 2014
        10:21 a.m.

        People aren’t trash.

        It’s sad that you were taught that calling people “trash” is ok. Most likely, you were called “trash” early in your life and it hurt. Now, your inner-child needs to strike out.

        You’re not trash. You’re just a low information sort of voter.

        • PortageMain

          Aug. 6, 2014
          12:19 p.m.

          Spare us the pop psychology lesson. It was clear what he meant. Talking about low information voters, it was the original commenter on this thread who believes Republicans control the Senate that I’m concerned about

  4. prashant

    Aug. 4, 2014
    2:15 a.m.

    Confirmation of US Ambassadors to various nations are crucial in that they represent our interests. Blocking the nominations of these ambassadors just to spite the president means that they hurt us as a nation in sinking so low.

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