Trump fumes as ambassador nominees languish in the Senate

Trump fumes as ambassador nominees languish in the Senate
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE on Wednesday blasted Democrats for slow-walking his nominees for top foreign posts, and the White House accused minority leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerEx-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis Ex-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw MORE (D-N.Y.) of imperiling national security by blocking some ambassadorships.

Chief among the president’s frustrations is Richard Grenell, the former U.S. spokesman to the United Nations, who Trump has tapped to represent the U.S. in Germany. Trump nominated Grenell last September but he has still not had a confirmation vote.

Grenell has broad support among Republicans and he has cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but Democrats are requiring 30 hours of floor debate and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellJon Stewart rips into McConnell for saying he's 'bent out of shape' over 9/11 victim fund Jon Stewart rips into McConnell for saying he's 'bent out of shape' over 9/11 victim fund Tensions with Iran reach new stage over uranium threat MORE (R-Ky.) has not scheduled a vote.

“Many of the agencies just have so many people out there, including diplomats from, as an example, Germany.  Major countries — we have diplomats, they wait in a line because the Democrats don't want to approve them, because they want to obstruct,” Trump said Wednesday at the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit. 

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“And that's not good,” he continued. “It's never been like this, ever. They've never held them this long.  Republicans have never done this to this extent with the Democrats.  And Schumer and the Democrats ought to get going because it's the wrong thing for our country. It's a very terrible thing.”

Trump even appeared to take a dig at McConnell, turning to address Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoOn The Money: Democrats move funding bills as budget caps deal remains elusive | Companies line up to weigh in on 0B China tariffs | Trudeau to talk trade with Pelosi, McConnell On The Money: Democrats move funding bills as budget caps deal remains elusive | Companies line up to weigh in on 0B China tariffs | Trudeau to talk trade with Pelosi, McConnell Progressive group requests Transportation Department look into Chao's potential conflicts of interest MORE, who is married to McConnell, and insinuating that the majority leader had done a better job of approving nominees at her agency.

“We have hundreds of people sitting out there, and they're obstructionists,” Trump said. “They don't want to approve them….it is just a terrible thing.  Elaine, we have so many people — is that correct? — so many people from other agencies. Your agency gets pretty good treatment, I think.”

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who is friends with Grenell, pressured McConnell on the nominations in an interview last December. At the time, McConnell said he hoped to have Grenell confirmed by the end of the 2017, which did not happen.

“Ambassadorships, for example, that normally just clear on a voice vote, many of them have you know, made us take a lot of time in the Senate,” McConnell said at the time. “And that’s the way you slow walk or kill a nomination, by balling it up. So it’s a frustration.”

The White House has begun highlighting nominees that have not received a vote at the daily press briefings to ramp up pressure on the Senate. 

On Wednesday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “a stunning” 43 percent of Trump’s nominees were still awaiting confirmation in the Senate and that there have been 102 fewer confirmations so far than the next closest administration.

“As I noted before, blocking Ric Grenell from serving as Ambassador to Germany is putting our national security in jeopardy,” Sanders said.

Sanders also brought up Yleem Pblete, who was nominated last year to serve as Assistant Secretary for Arms Control Verification and Compliance.

“We need her in place so she’s able to fully represent the United States at upcoming international meetings to discuss Syria’s use of chemical weapons, and to participate in April’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meetings,” Sanders said.

“And yet, Senator Schumer is holding her up, putting the safety and security of the American people and, frankly, the entire world in danger.”