House

Democrat unveils bill capping number of ambassadors who are political appointees

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) on Wednesday unveiled new legislation that would limit the number of ambassadors who are political appointees, at a time when tensions within the State Department are becoming central to the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Under Bera's bill, at least 70 percent of ambassador appointments would be required to come from career foreign service and civil service ranks. He released the Strengthening Traditional American Diplomacy Act on Wednesday.

Bera, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said in a statement that the Trump administration has a "record number" of political appointees in ambassador positions.

"While it's true that some political appointees have a wealth of professional experience that contributes to our nation, many individuals have little to no prior diplomatic experience," he continued. "During a time of increasing complex global challenges and national security threats facing the United States, we must have our most qualified and experienced public servants representing the US around the world."

Bera added that he was "deeply troubled" by reports of the administration "sidelining" policy experts and "retaliating against" career employees.

"Career diplomats dedicate their lives to serving the American people and government both home and abroad," he said in the statement. "They serve on the frontlines of American diplomacy, helping mitigate and prevent some of our country's most pressing foreign policy issues. We must send a strong signal to our diplomats that they are valued, and that starts with retaining and promoting our best and brightest public servants."

The release reports that 45 percent of Trump's ambassadors are political appointees, compared to 30 percent under former President Obama, 32 percent under former President George W. Bush and 28 percent under former President Clinton.

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill it does not comment on pending legislation.

Morale in the State Department is reportedly at an all-time low after budget cuts, departures from senior staff and accusations against employees of participating in an alleged deep state.  

The Trump administration has received criticism over allegations that its Ukraine policy was dictated by noncareer officials such as Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker. 

Their involvement in Ukraine policy is being discussed as part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump. 

Outbrain