Senate confirms Kelly Craft as UN ambassador

Senate confirms Kelly Craft as UN ambassador
© Aaron Schwartz

The Senate has approved Kelly Craft to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, giving President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE a Senate-confirmed envoy to the international body for the first time since December.

The Senate voted 56-34 on Wednesday to confirm Craft, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Canada since August 2017. She will fill a role that has been occupied in an acting capacity by Jonathan Cohen since Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Nikki Haley voices 'complete support' for Pence The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE resigned in December.

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Most Democrats opposed Craft over concerns about her past remarks on climate change, as well as accusations that she was absent from her post in Canada too often.

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“First and foremost, she lacks the experience necessary to stand up for American values and promote our national security on the global stage,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback MORE (D-N.J.) said. “Second, during her brief diplomatic tenure in Canada, she posted so many absences that I cannot describe it as anything less than a dereliction of duty.”

Hours before Wednesday’s vote, Menendez released a report that found Craft spent more than half of her time as the U.S. ambassador to Canada outside of the country. The findings had been circulated earlier among Foreign Relations Committee staff.

During her confirmation hearing, Craft defended her time away from Ottawa as being spent largely to advance trade negotiations in the field.

Craft, the wife of a coal executive, had also come under fire for saying in a 2017 interview that “there are scientists on both sides that are accurate” about the existence of climate change, despite scientific consensus that it does.

During her confirmation hearing, Craft pledged to recuse herself from matters involving coal and said humans have “contributed” to climate change.

“Climate change needs to be addressed, as it poses real risks to our planet. Human behavior has contributed to the changing climate,” Craft said. “Let there be no doubt: I will take this matter seriously, and if confirmed, I will be an advocate for all countries to do their part in addressing climate change.

“This does not mean, in my view, that the United States should imperil American jobs — or our economy as a whole — by assuming an outsized burden on behalf of the rest of the world,” she continued. “However, it does mean that we should promote the creativity and innovation that have made the United States a leader in tackling the challenges of our environment — all while safeguarding our nation’s economic well-being.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have lined up behind Craft.

“During her tenure as ambassador to Canada, America's relationship with our northern neighbor was tested,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast MORE (R-Ky.) said Wednesday. McConnell reportedly recommended Craft, a fellow Kentuckian and prominent Republican donor, for the job.

“A number of challenging policy hurdles threatened to trip up progress on several important issues, including trade negotiations,” McConnell continued, “but by all accounts, Ambassador Craft's involvement led to greater cooperation.”

Updated at 6:22 p.m.