Senate votes to confirm State Department nominees

The Senate voted to confirm three of President Obama’s State Department nominees Tuesday evening.

Richard Stengel was confirmed to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy on a 90-8 vote.

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The Senate voted 97-1 to confirm Sarah Sewall to be an Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights.

And Charles Hammerman Rivkin was confirmed to be an Assistant Secretary of State on Economic and Business Affairs on a 92-6 vote.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said all three were “highly qualified nominees” but called for the Senate to move more quickly on other pending nominations.

The Senate also considered and confirmed by voice-vote the nomination of Sloan Gibson to be Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 

Votes on the nominees came while the Senate waited for the House to pass a clean debt ceiling increase, which would allow the government to borrow money until March 2015 — well after the November midterm elections.

The House passed that extension in a 221-201 vote. If the Senate takes up the measure before leaving for a weeklong recess Friday, lawmakers will easily meet the Feb. 27 deadline from the Treasury Department to avoid default.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would wait to hold anymore votes until Wednesday. He said he hoped to reach an agreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hold a series of votes at 11:30 a.m. so lawmakers could avoid a snow storm expected to hit Washington, D.C., Wednesday night.

— This article was updated at 6:45 p.m.

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