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Amy K.
Democrat MN

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  • Nomination of Samuel Heins

    by Senator Amy Klobuchar

    Posted on 2016-01-11

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    KLOBUCHAR. Madam President, I rise today to call on the Senate and all of my colleagues to allow us to move forward on the nomination of Sam Heins of Minnesota to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway. The U.S. Ambassador for Sweden has also been held up. Coming from the State of Iowa, which I believe is over 10 percent Scandinavian--over 300,000 people--I think the Presiding Officer understands the importance of our country actually having Ambassadors to these incredibly important allies and nations.

    It has now been 836 days since there was last a confirmed Ambassador to Norway, one of our most important European allies. Part of this situation was caused by a different nominee who has some issues with the committee and with other Senators. That person has now been replaced, and it has been 166 days since a new nominee went through the Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Heins was approved by a voice vote, without any controversy, as was the Ambassador to Sweden. I thank Senators Corker and Cardin and Senators McConnell and Reid for their help in trying to get this through.

    Unfortunately, these nominations are now being held up by Senator Cruz. Based on my discussions with him, it is not because of the qualifications of these nominees; it is related to, I suppose, other issues. Yet, I note for those Scandinavians out there, Senator Cruz has allowed votes on Ambassadors to other countries. We have Ambassadors in France, in England, in nearly every European nation, but not these two Scandinavian countries.

    Perhaps people don't understand the importance of these nations because they just think these people wear sweaters all the time. I don't know what they think of Norway and Sweden, but, in fact, Senator Cruz should understand that they are two of our best allies. Norway is one of our country's strongest and most dependable allies. I will speak more about Sweden at another time.

    I plan to take to the floor repeatedly in the next month to talk about the importance of these allies and to ask Senator Cruz what he does not understand, that these are important allies.

    Norway was a founding member of the NATO Alliance, and its military has participated in operations with the United States in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Norwegians work alongside Americans in standing up to Russia's provocations in Ukraine, in countering ISIS and the spread of violent extremism, and in strengthening regional cooperation in the Arctic. Norway has been especially strong on the issue of the Ukraine and on the issue with Russia. I know the Presiding Officer, with her background in the military, understands how important that is, and certainly my colleagues across the aisle understand how important it is to have allies that will stand up to Russia.

    In addition, Norway is an important economic partner. In a letter sent this July by the American Chamber of Commerce in Norway, Norway ``represented the 5th fastest growing source of foreign direct investment in the United States between 2009-2013 and is the 12th largest source of foreign direct investment in the United States overall.'' Right now, the United States of America for over 700 days has said to one of the top investors in our country, one of our best allies in security, ``Sorry. You don't rate getting an ambassador.'' There are also over 300 American companies with a presence in Norway, including 3M of Minnesota, Eli Lilly, General Electric, IBM, McDonald's, and so many others.

    In October Norway reiterated its commitment to Lockheed Martin with the purchase of an additional 22 F-35s. These Lockheed Martin warplanes will be built at a facility in Fort Worth, TX. I have called this to Senator Cruz's attention. In fact, this is an enormous purchase, the biggest purchase made in the history of the country of Norway.

    These companies, however, are hindered without a strong ambassador to help facilitate and strengthen economic ties between our two countries.

    Norway is also playing an important role in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis. Norway has a proud history of providing support to those fleeing conflict. It expects to take in as many as 25,000 refugees this year and has already provided millions of dollars to Greece to help that country respond to the influx of refugees seeking a way to enter Europe. Norway is basically on the frontline of the refugee crisis.

    All of us on both sides of the aisle have talked about the importance of a strong Europe during this very difficult time. Yet, right now we have no Ambassadors in two of the countries on the frontline involved in these refugee crises, and those are Sweden and Norway.

    Norway deserves a U.S. Ambassador who understands the country and is deeply committed to the relationship. I believe Mr. Heins is the right person for the job. No one has seriously questioned his qualifications for the job.

    As a Senator from the State that is home to more people--more than 800,000--of Norwegian heritage than anywhere except Norway itself, I think it is only fitting that the nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway hail from Minnesota.

    Of course, there is much more to Sam Heins than his Minnesota heritage. In addition to being an accomplished lawyer, he has demonstrated his devotion to and leadership in the cause of advancing human rights. He founded, organized, and served as the first board chair for the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, which monitors and responds to human rights abuses throughout the world. He also cofounded the Center for Victims of Torture, which provides services, research, and advocacy for victims of torture around the world, and continues to serve as a board member. This record of accomplishment is particularly appropriate for someone nominated to be our Ambassador to Norway. Norway has long been an international leader on human rights issues. Mr. Heins' extensive work on human rights and with nongovernmental organizations that support human rights will be extremely helpful in sustaining and building on the strong U.S.-Norweigian partnership in this area.

    Last year, as we know, Congress was able to find common ground on so many issues. We passed a budget bill, we passed a transportation bill, a historic amount of funding, an increase in funding. We got the bill done on sex trafficking that Senator Cornyn and I worked on so hard. I can go through a list of the work we did together across the aisle.

    When it comes to foreign relations, our country has always believed that a united front is most important on the world stage. We have a united front when it comes to the countries of Norway and Sweden. We understand they are our true allies. We have a united front on these two Ambassador nominees. They were noncontroversial. They went through the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Corker and Senator Cardin have worked together to make sure they get to the floor, but [[Page S17]] right now Senator Cruz is holding up these nominees for reasons that are completely outside of the qualifications of the nominees. I can say this is not the way we should be conducting world business.

    I am focusing today on Norway. I will focus on Sweden in the future as I continue to give these speeches. I don't think we can take these countries lightly just because it is cold there and darker in the winter. These are incredibly important allies and trading partners. They deserve to be treated like other European nations. They deserve to have an ambassador from the United States of America.

    It is time to end this delay and do the work the Senate is supposed to do. Let's move ahead and work to confirm these qualified nominees to represent us abroad. One is a country in Europe that just bought 22 fighter planes from Lockheed Martin. If they had bought 22 fighter planes from the Presiding Officer's State, I believe the Presiding Officer would have looked at the fact that if it is a noncontroversial nominee to a country that invests in the United States of America, that is an ambassador we need to get confirmed, and we would get this done.

    I ask my colleagues to work with Senator Cruz. The hope is that given that we have seen no other opposition of any significance to these two nominees, we will be able to get this done. He has said to me personally that this is not about the qualifications of the nominees, it is simply other issues that I hope he can resolve within the Republican caucus and with us so we can move forward and so they are not held up any longer. Norway and Sweden deserve Ambassadors.


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