Rubio vows to slow-walk Biden’s China, Spain ambassador nominees

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, on Capitol Hill on January 27, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Tuesday that he will slow-walk President Biden’s nominees to be the U.S. ambassadors to China and Spain, the latest roadblock from Senate Republicans for State Department picks.

Rubio said that he had placed holds on Nicholas Burns’s nomination to be ambassador to China and Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón’s nomination for ambassador to Spain.

Rubio, in a statement, said that he believed Burns — who previously worked in the State Department during the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations — had a career “defined by the failure to understand the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Rubio called Reynoso a “sympathizer and apologist” for the Castro government in Cuba and “has absolutely no business being in our government.”

“I am confident … that Reynoso would not push Spain to increase pressure on the authoritarian regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela,” he added.

Reynoso serves as first lady Jill Biden’s chief of staff and as an assistant to the president. She previously served as ambassador to Uruguay and deputy assistant secretary for Central America and the Caribbean in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs under the Obama administration.

Rubio’s decision to drag out the two ambassador nominations marks the latest setback for Biden’s State Department picks.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) vowed earlier this year that he would hold up Biden’s picks for the Defense and State departments unless Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan resign in the wake of the administration’s Afghanistan exit. 

And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has vowed to block the quick confirmation of State Department nominees over his opposition to the administration’s waiving of congressionally mandated sanctions on a Russian natural gas pipeline.

Cruz has let some State Department nominations, including ambassador nominations for former Senate colleagues Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), move quickly.

The GOP blockade on State Department picks has frustrated Democrats and the Biden administration, who have warned that it’s undermining the ability to advance U.S. interest abroad. There are more than 50 State Department nominees currently awaiting a Senate floor vote.

“Republicans who are holding up these nominees are endangering our national security, making it harder for our country to respond to threats at home and abroad,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor earlier this month.

And Rubio’s decision to hold up Burns is a blow to what appeared to be a path to getting him quickly confirmed.

Both Cruz and Hawley have said they would not block Burns’s confirmation vote from moving forward, and he advanced out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month.

Tags Antony Blinken Charles Schumer China Jake Sullivan Jeff Flake Jill Biden Joe Biden Josh Hawley julissa reynoso pantaleon Marco Rubio Nicholas Burns Spain Ted Cruz Tom Udall
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