Senate

Flake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay

Greg Nash

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed four of President Biden’s ambassadors, slowly advancing a confirmation process that has stalled under protest from Republican senators.  

All four nominees passed by voice vote, signaling bipartisan support and their appointments as noncontroversial. 

The confirmed ambassadors include former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) as the envoy to Turkey and former New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall (D) to be ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.  

Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), was confirmed as the U.S. envoy to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture with the rank of ambassador. 

And attorney and activist Victoria Reggie Kennedy was confirmed to be ambassador to Austria. 

They are the first tranche of ambassadors to be confirmed following the sole confirmation of Ken Salazar on Aug. 11 as U.S. ambassador to Mexico.  

While the senate confirmation process can be drawn out and bureaucratically burdensome, the holdup on Biden’s nominees, especially for the State Department, are the result of a blanket hold by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

While Cruz has blocked nearly all of the president’s diplomatic nominees in opposition to Biden’s handling of a Russian gas pipeline, he told The Washington Post last week he would let votes on Flake, McCain and others to proceed “out of senatorial courtesy.” 

 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has also threatened to hold nominees at the State Department and Department of Defense in retaliation for the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He has called for the resignation of national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in order to lift the holds.  

Cruz maintains a hold on at least 40 nominees for the State Department, for what he says is an effort to force the administration to impose congressionally-mandated sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Europe.

“I’ve made clear to every State Department official, to every state department nominee, that I will place holds on these nominees unless and until the Biden administration follows the law and stops this pipeline and imposes the sanctions,” Cruz said in floor remarks in August. 

The pipeline, which runs from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany, is considered finished.

The Biden administration has effectively allowed the pipeline’s operation to proceed, arranging an agreement with Berlin in July with the terms meant to offset the risks of the pipeline, namely Moscow’s ability to leverage energy over Europe and deprive Ukraine of profits from gas delivery in Europe. 

–Updated on Oct. 27 at 7:09 a.m.

Tags Ambassador Antony Blinken Biden nominees Jake Sullivan Jeff Flake Joe Biden John McCain Josh Hawley Ted Cruz Tom Udall

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