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Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador

Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE’s nominee to represent the United States at the United Nations as ambassador, Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-GreenfieldUS ambassador to UN to travel to Syria border town amid debate over humanitarian aid Harris, Hispanic Caucus meet on Central America The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Israel-Hamas carnage worsens; Dems face SALT dilemma MORE, a more than three-decade veteran of the State Department and a diplomat with vast experience in Africa. 

The Senate voted 78-20 to confirm Thomas-Greenfield, moving forward on filling out the president’s Cabinet in his over one month into office. 

Thomas-Greenfield is the eighth official confirmed to join Biden’s Cabinet, putting in place a key envoy as part of the president’s push to bring the U.S. back to the world stage and multilateral institutions.

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“She's exceptionally qualified, and that was reflected in the bipartisan support she received from the Foreign Relations committee,” Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Monday, in remarks ahead of her confirmation vote.

“She will have no time to waste in rebuilding America's reputation and reasserting the first instrument of American power, diplomacy," he added.

Her appointment comes as the Biden administration has already taken steps to reassert the U.S. position within the United Nations by reversing policy decisions under the Trump administration that either terminated or abandoned American participation in specific programs. 

Thomas-Greenfield heads to the United Nations as the U.S. is also rallying allies to push back against the military coup in Myanmar and amid the Biden administration’s renewed push for diplomacy to resolve the civil war in Yemen which has become a devastating humanitarian crisis.

Her biggest task will be asserting American leadership and uniting allies to confront China’s influence and ambitions at the global body that experts say is aimed at rewriting the international rules in favor of Beijing’s worldview. 

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Republican senators opposed to her nomination, including Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden tries to erase Trump's 'America First' on world stage Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot MORE (Texas), criticized Thomas-Greenfield as naive to threats posed by China. 

Cruz has centered his criticism against Thomas-Greenfield over a 2019 speech she delivered to Savannah State University that was sponsored by the Beijing-backed Confucius Institute, a Chinese language and cultural institute designated as a foreign mission by the Trump administration. 

Thomas-Greenfield has expressed regret over associating herself with the Confucius Institute and gained support from top Republicans, including the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho). 

The appointment of Thomas-Greenfield, who is African American, also signals the president’s commitment to promote diversity among his most senior officials and in response to the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer and push for racial equity.

Born and raised in Louisiana during segregation, Thomas-Greenfield was the first African American woman in the Career Foreign Service to reach the senior rank of assistant secretary. She was the head of the Bureau of African Affairs during the Obama administration and helped guide policy during the Ebola crisis. 

A 35-year veteran of the State Department, Thomas-Greenfield also served as ambassador to Liberia and had foreign postings in Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria and Jamaica. 

She’s touted her unique approach to international relationships as “gumbo-diplomacy,” inviting her counterparts into her kitchen to make the traditional Louisiana sausage, chicken and shrimp stew (a rough outline of her recipe was published by The Washington Post). 

“Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield understands at her core that foreign policy is about forging connections and building relationships,” Senator Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale Sanders push to block arms sale to Israel doomed in Senate Schumer tactics on China bill reveal broader trade strategy MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Monday ahead of her confirmation vote. 

“So I have no doubt that what she calls her personal brand of ‘gumbo diplomacy,’ which emphasizes connecting with others to solve problems, will be of tremendous service to the United States at an institution like the United Nations, where personal relationships matter a great deal," he added.