Merkley says he won’t support Rahm Emanuel’s ambassador nomination

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Wednesday that he will oppose Rahm Emanuel’s nomination to be ambassador to Japan.

“Black Lives Matter. Here in the halls of Congress, it is important that we not just speak and believe these words, but put them into action in the decisions we make,” Merkley said in a statement.

“I have carefully considered Mayor Emanuel’s record—and the input of civil rights leaders, criminal justice experts, and local elected officials who have reached out to the Senate to weigh in—and I have reached the decision that I cannot support his nomination to serve as a U.S. Ambassador,” Merkley added in a statement.

Merkley is the first Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to say that he won’t support Biden’s pick.

The committee is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, meaning Emanuel will need help from Republicans to get his nomination to the Senate floor. But Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), who previously has served as ambassador to Japan, has backed Emanuel’s nomination and introduced him at his committee hearing.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) also said on Wednesday that he would support for Emanuel’s nomination, which was subsequently advanced out of the committee on a voice vote. 

Both Merkley and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked to be recorded as no votes during the committee meeting on Wednesday. 

That means, unless they flip, that Emanuel will need GOP votes when his nomination is brought up on the floor of the upper chamber, where he could be confirmed by a simple majority.

“While I respect Mayor Emanuel’s many years of service, and the points of view of my colleagues who have come to a different conclusion, I will be voting ‘no’ when his nomination comes before the committee,” Merkley said.

Progressives have balked at Emanuel’s nomination and urged senators to oppose his nomination over a police shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014, when he was the mayor of Chicago.

A Chicago police officer fatally shot McDonald, 17, in October 2014. Emanuel was accused of suppressing the release of footage of the shooting, which showed McDonald had been walking away from police when the officer opened fire, until after he had been reelected the following November.

Emanuel, who was also previously a House lawmaker and former President Obama’s first chief of staff, said during his hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that, while there’s no uniform standard or policy for the release of police video, he didn’t want to prejudice witness or prevent prosecution with a premature release. 

Updated 10:37 a.m.

Tags Barack Obama Biden nominee Ed Markey Jeff Merkley Jim Risch Joe Biden Senate confirmations

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