By Justin Sink
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Wednesday that he would place a hold on all White House nominees to the State Department until President Obama nominated an inspector general (IG) to the department.
"The President's failure to nominate a State Department Inspector General since taking office in 2009 is unacceptable," Cruz said in a statement. "The position has been vacant for almost 2,000 days. This is a crucial oversight position and should be a priority for an agency facing substantial management challenges."
"Until the President acts, I have notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [(D-Nev.)] and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [(R-Ky.)] that I will place a hold on all State Department nominations."
Cruz noted that other federal agencies are also without inspectors general: The Department of the Interior has been without one since 2009, as has the Labor Department.
"While several federal agencies are operating without a Senate-confirmed Inspector General, only the State Department has been without a credible and independent Inspector General for so long," Cruz said.
The Texas lawmaker invoked last year's attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, while stressing the need for an IG.
"During the last five years, there have been deadly attacks on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Libya, mismanagement of security contractors at our embassy in Afghanistan, and hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars wasted for police training in Iraq," Cruz said. "These issues highlight the State Department's need for an Inspector General as soon as possible."
Other Republicans, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), have complained about the lack of a nomination. In January, 15 Republican senators wrote President Obama urging him to nominate candidates to fill the vacancies.
But the White House has repeatedly stressed that it is supportive of the outside inspectors general.
Last week, White House spokesman Eric Shultz told The Wall Street Journal the administration was "working diligently to identify the best candidates to fill these unique posts."
"The administration supports the efforts of all of the IG offices, including those currently being led by acting IGs, as they work to ensure that taxpayers get the good government they deserve," Schultz said.
Secretary of State John Kerry indicated in congressional testimony in April that a nominee had been chosen and submitted to the White House for vetting.
In a statement, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the position was "particularly important to the secretary and to the president."
"As we've said previously, and as the secretary himself has said publicly, the secretary and the president identified an excellent candidate for Inspector General and we look forward to the nomination becoming public after the vetting and paperwork process is complete," Ventrell said.
"Regarding other nominations, the Secretary remains focused on the State Department’s full team in place," Ventrell continued. "We have a number of outstanding nominees in front of the Senate now, and more nominations coming from the White House as well."
This post was updated at 12:52 p.m.