Cotton lifts block on Obama nominees over Secret Service scandal

Greg Nash

Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonHow far will Cruz go in backing Trump? The Hill's 12:30 Report GOP rallies to Trump's 'law and order' message after Baton Rouge MORE said Monday that he is lifting holds on two Obama nominations, citing progress from the administration on responding to a Secret Service scandal involving a key House critic of the agency. 

"The White House reached out to my office and made clear that the president understood the gravity of the violations that occurred. And in the past month the Obama administration has finally begun to take action," the Arkansas Republican said. 
 
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Cotton's remarks come after he said earlier this year he would block three ambassador nominations over a report that the Secrete Service leaked information about Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOvernight Energy: Volkswagen faces another emissions lawsuit Fast and Furious: Are you listening Congress? Dozens of GOP lawmakers staying away from Trump's convention MORE (R-Utah).
 
The senator then placed holds on Cassandra Butts's nomination to be ambassador to the Bahamas, Azita Raji's nomination to be ambassador to Sweden and Samuel Heins's nomination to be ambassador to Norway.
 
But he announced Monday that he is lifting his hold on Raji and Heins, saying that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had issued "disciplinary proposals" for the suspension of more than 40 lower-level officials, with proposals being prepared for senior-level officials. 
 
"I believe both [nominees] are qualified … and we have significant interests in Scandinavia. My hope is that both nominees receive a vote in the Senate sooner rather than later," he added. 
 
But Cotton warned that he will continue to block Butts's nomination because the Department of Justice has not launched a criminal investigation into the "unauthorized access and dissemination" of Chaffetz's records. 
 
He added that he would place additional holds on Obama nominees if the department doesn't launch a criminal probe, if the proposed discipline of senior officials isn't severe enough or to "again remind the White House of the seriousness of this matter."
 
Cotton's decision comes after Democrats knocked Republicans earlier this month over blocking Obama's ambassador nominations over unrelated issues. 
 
Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinBernie’s ‘revolution’ marches to Philly Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension Senators push tougher sanctions against Iran MORE (D-Md.) said that having an unconfirmed ambassador has a negative effect on international relations. 
 
"I have heard from our missions ... the absence of a confirmed ambassador has an impact on the ability of America to be heard in that country," he told reporters. "It is looked upon as, 'Well, maybe this relationship isn't quite as important as you tell us it is.' "

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