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Senate panel advances Biden's pick for United Nations ambassador

Senate panel advances Biden's pick for United Nations ambassador
© Greg Nash

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday voted to advance President Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-GreenfieldAnti-Trump foreign policy group releases lawmaker rankings on global affairs US preparing more than 0 million in aid for Palestinians Five reasons why America needs to pay its peacekeeping bill MORE, moving forward on filling out the president’s Cabinet a little over two weeks after his inauguration.

Thomas-Greenfield, a veteran of more than three decades in the State Department, is tasked with reasserting U.S. influence at the United Nations that degraded under the Trump administration.

If confirmed by the full Senate, she is expected to confront China’s ambitions at the global body, including bringing the U.S. back into the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran and defending Israel against what lawmakers and the administration have criticized as biased attacks, among other key priorities.

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The White House had earlier said it was “eager to see move forward” the president’s nominees for key Cabinet positions that have yet to be confirmed.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 18 to four to advance Thomas-Greenfield's nomination, moving it to a vote on the Senate floor for confirmation.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBottom line The Memo: Biden's five biggest foreign policy challenges Democrats gear up for major push to lower drug prices MORE (D-N.J.) oversaw the vote in his first official capacity as chairman of the panel.

“I have no doubt that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is someone who is clear eyed about the challenges we face from China’s government, about regaining U.S. leverage and influence on the Security Council, about reengaging our allies and holding Iran accountable and about standing up when Israel is subject to bias attacks,” Menendez said.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz no longer wearing mask in Capitol The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Democrats brace for new 'defund the police' attacks MORE (R-Texas) opposed Thomas-Greenfield’s appointment over concerns that she is soft on Beijing, citing an October 2019 speech on U.S.-China relations she gave at Savannah State University in Georgia that was sponsored by the Confucius Institute.

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The Confucius Institute is a Chinese government-backed education program that, since September, has shut down operations at universities and colleges in the U.S. Its closure came under pressure from the Trump administration, which designated the program a foreign mission, accused it of disseminating propaganda, repressing free speech and engaging in espionage.

Thomas-Greenfield addressed the controversy during her confirmation hearing, saying she regretted giving the speech and having her name associated with the Confucius Institute.

She also defended her participation, saying she did so out of a commitment to engage with historically Black colleges and universities in an effort to encourage underrepresented minorities in government to pursue a career in U.S. national security and the Foreign Service.

Thomas-Greenfield, who served as assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs during the Obama administration, was at the time the first African American woman from the Foreign Service to reach a rank of that seniority.

Sen. Jim RischJim Elroy RischGOP lawmakers block Biden assistance to Palestinians Lack of cyber funds in Biden infrastructure plan raises eyebrows The Hill's Morning Report - Biden shifts on filibuster MORE (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the committee, praised Thomas-Greenfield’s honesty in acknowledging the mistake and highlighted her career experience as qualifications for the position as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

“I’m not willing to allow one speech to define a person’s career,” he said on Thursday. “I’m going to support her nomination, I think she’s got an outstanding record, she’s a good person.”