Senators retain 43 Biden diplomatic nominees as crises roil world


The Biden administration has 43 presidential nominees still awaiting Senate confirmation as Congress prepares to recess for the holidays, a delay that is jeopardizing national security and U.S. foreign policy interests around the world. The State Department said Friday.

Any nominee who is not confirmed before the Senate adjourns, expected next week, will have to be nominated again by the White House next year, causing further delays. Among those awaiting confirmation is Kurt M. Campbell, whom President Biden is seeking to name deputy to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

The blocking of diplomatic nominees has continued as many Republicans in Congress have sought to condition support for Biden's foreign policy priorities on obtaining political concessions from the right. Some have shown a willingness to leave gaps in diplomatic and national security staff, even as the Biden administration faces wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip.

A single senator can delay a nomination, and several Republican senators have put nominees on hold, similar to what Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, did for months with at least 425 nominees for Pentagon positions before senators of their own party will rebel. Against him.

The State Department said it was dealing with intense hostility among some Republican senators toward career Foreign Service officials.

“Since the beginning of this administration, the State Department has endured a relentless attack on career Foreign Service candidates, in particular,” the department said in a statement. “Unprecedented, unrelated demands and often inaccurate perceptions have allowed adversaries like China and Russia to gain diplomatic ground.”

The agency's rebuke echoed comments Blinken made in July, calling on senators to end their blockade.

The State Department said confirming Campbell to the undersecretary position was important to the department's “critical work” defending Ukraine, countering Chinese competition and “working for peace in the Middle East,” referring to the war. between Israel and Gaza. Campbell, the White House's top Asia policy adviser, was confirmed by the Senate during the Obama administration to serve as assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Victoria J. Nuland, the department's undersecretary of state for political affairs, has served as the department's acting deputy.

Other nominees include ambassadors for positions the State Department called “critical to maintaining security, including Haiti, Somalia and Nigeria.” The list of vacancies also includes the counter-terrorism coordinator, the ambassador to the African Union, the deputy representative of the United Nations and the ambassador to the UN agencies in Rome, which work on global food and agriculture issues. .

Thomas Yazdgerdi, president of the American Foreign Service Association, a union, urged the Senate to act on the nominees.

“These are dedicated men and women who have dedicated their lives to diplomacy and who have proven themselves worthy of assuming the highest responsibilities,” he said.

Brett Bruen, a former U.S. diplomat, blamed Republicans for “playing politics with our embassy leaders in some of these places at a time when we have so many global crises.”

Republican senators who have suspended ambassador nominees under Biden include JD Vance of Ohio, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Earlier this year, Vance sent nominees questionnaires to the State Department to determine whether they might be “radical” or too “woke” by his standards, he told Politico in July.

Paul said in June that he would block Senate action on all State Department nominees until the Biden administration provided him with documents related to the origins of the coronavirus, which he said were likely leaked from a Chinese lab.

Cruz angered State Department officials early in the Biden administration by delaying numerous nominees, but he has recently played a smaller role than both Vance and Paul. Vance and Paul's offices did not respond to requests for comment; A spokesman for Cruz said his office does not comment on whether there are restrictions on nominees.

Twenty-seven nominees are stalled in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, several since 2022, the State Department said. The committee has to schedule hearings or hold meetings to move them to the floor for a vote.

Some U.S. officials said the committee's top Republican member, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, did not agree to enough such meetings to keep the process going.

Mr. Risch's office had no comment. The committee's chairman, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., also declined to comment.

There is still a chance that some nominees will be confirmed this year. The Senate confirmed Lisa Johnson as ambassador to Lebanon on Thursday night.

A key candidate on whom the Senate acted relatively quickly was Jacob J. Lew, a former Treasury secretary in the Obama administration whom Biden nominated to be ambassador to Israel on September 5. Lew received a committee hearing 11 days later. the October 7 Hamas attacks in Israel and confirmed by a close vote on October 31.

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