Russ Feingold may join State Department as Africa envoy

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Kerry said during a hearing on the president's 2014 budget last month that he's talked to Feingold about a potential appointment after Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) floated his name as a potential envoy to Sudan and South Sudan.

"We need a special envoy. I absolutely intend to appoint a special envoy," Kerry said. "I think the world of Russ Feingold. I've actually talked to him about some stuff already."

Kerry made the remarks during a hearing of the House Appropriations subpanel on foreign aid. 

"[Ambassador Princeton Lyman] has left; there is a need for a special envoy," Wolf told Kerry. "I sent you a letter urging, recommending former Sen. Feingold. He was Chairman of the African Affairs subcommittee, he knows you, he supported President Obama. He is well thought of out in the region, but there's been a vacancy now for five weeks over there.

"And I think the office is beginning to have a little bit of concern. So you hopefully will appoint someone of some stature, and I think Feingold is someone I liken as a model similar to John Danforth who President Bush appointed."

The next day during a Senate hearing on the president's budget, Kerry reiterated his intention to nominate new envoys to African hot spots.

"We're going to have to be more engaged in Africa," Kerry said. "We will have a special envoy for the [Democratic Republic of the Congo]. We will have a special envoy for the Sudan. Princeton Lyman just retired about five weeks ago now. We're raising to try to get people in these places, and we will have them."

The Great Lakes region of central Africa have been gripped by conflict over the past two decades, with mass killings and refugee movements devastating nations like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Burundi. Human rights activists, including actor Ben Affleck, have called on president Obama to appoint a special envoy to the area. 

There had been some thought that Feingold would challenge Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in his reelection bid next year, but an appointment to the State Department would seem to preclude a run. But a source close to Feingold told the Journal Sentinel that the two-term senator may challenge Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in 2016 in a rematch of the 2010 race.

This post was updated at 10:00 a.m.

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