Trump fumes as ambassador nominees languish in the Senate

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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy 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 SchumerSinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall Pelosi: 'People are dying' because McConnell won't bring up gun legislation 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 McConnellO'Rourke responds to Buttigieg's gun criticism: 'That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place' Cicilline on Trump investigations versus legislation: 'We have to do both' The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation 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 ChaoTrump awards Medal of Valor, civilian honors to responders in Dayton and El Paso shootings Democrats ask Chao to promote airline price competition Trump administration takes step to relax truck driver time regulations 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.”