Senate Dems: GOP blocking ‘critical’ national security nominees

Senate Democrats are slamming Republicans for blocking dozens of national security nominees they say are critical in the wake of last week’s Paris attacks.

“Republicans need to stop holding our national security apparatus hostage to political demands, which is exactly what this has been,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told reporters on Wednesday.

{mosads}Brown, as well as Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Ben Cardin (Md.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), blamed Republicans for holding up dozens of nominations, including Eric Fanning’s nomination to be Army secretary and Adam Szubin’s nomination as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes.

Schumer, who is expected to be the next Senate Democratic leader, added that Republicans are moving at a “glacial pace” on nominations that affect national security.

“That isn’t just backward, that’s dangerous. We should be fighting ISIS with all hands on deck,” he said, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The comments come after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set up a vote on Gayle Smith’s nomination to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Democrats have long argued that blocking Smith’s nomination has hurt the administration’s ability to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Cardin noted that he was on his way to the Senate floor to ask for unanimous consent to pass the nomination when McConnell scheduled the vote.

Asked why he thought the nomination was allowed to move forward, he said “there have been conversations directly with Sen. [Ted] Cruz [R-Texas] on his hold.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said separately that though Smith’s nomination is getting a vote, “there are many other nominees that are ready to serve their country in our foreign policy and national security agencies but are stuck waiting in the wings.”

In addition to Szubin and Fanning, State Department nominations including dozens of foreign service posts and ambassadorships, are being blocked over an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server, a Secret Service scandal and the Iran nuclear deal.

Cardin stressed that not having a confirmed nominee reflects badly on the United States, though he credited Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, for his work to move nominations through the committee.

“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 said. “It is looked upon as ‘well maybe this relationship isn’t quite as important as you tell us it is.'”

Updated at 3:47 p.m.

Tags Ben Cardin Bob Corker Chuck Schumer Debbie Stabenow Hillary Clinton Jeanne Shaheen Mitch McConnell Sherrod Brown

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