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Benjamin C.
Democrat MD

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  • Nominations

    by Senator Benjamin L. Cardin

    Posted on 2015-12-18

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    CARDIN. Mr. President, earlier today I took the floor. Senator Cruz was here, and he raised an objection to a unanimous consent request that I had not yet made. I am not going to make that unanimous consent request, but I am going to mention, as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--and our Presiding Officer is one of the distinguished members of the committee--that there are 14 nominations that have been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, some a long time ago, by unanimous vote. These are not controversial nominations. Each of the individuals is well qualified for the position. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under the leadership of Senator Corker, reported these nominations out in a very timely way. Each of those in their own position is critically important to our national security. Having a confirmed ambassador in a country is critically important to our national security. Having the No. 4 person at the State Department confirmed is critically important in negotiating security issues.

    It is our responsibility to take these nominees up and to act on them and to confirm them so that we can have confirmed positions.

    I will just mention a few. As I said, I had given notice that I would ask unanimous consent, and Senator Cruz indicated that he would object and actually came to the floor to object. But we have to get this done. The reason we are not voting has nothing to do [[Page S8872]] with these individuals--nothing, not one thing. These are qualified people. They are being held up for reasons unrelated to their important responsibilities to our country.

    Thomas Shannon, a career person, to the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. This is the point person who negotiates globally.

    Brian Egan to the position of State Department Legal Adviser. We all have questions on a lot of the legal issues on foreign policy, and yet we won't confirm a career person who has given his career to public service.

    David Robinson to the positions of Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations and Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. This is a person who we need to deal with a lot of the human rights issues.

    John Estrada to the post of U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. Drug trafficking--we need a confirmed ambassador. For months and months and months they have been on the calendar and no action.

    Azita Raji to be Ambassador to Sweden and Samuel Heins to be Ambassador to Norway, our Scandinavian friends.

    I was at the State Department this week for the holiday reception with the heads of missions that are stationed in Washington. Ambassadors from other countries came up to me and said: Will we get a confirmed ambassador? It is affecting America's security and reputation, and we need to have confirmed ambassadors. Norway has gone 2 years without a confirmed ambassador. We have a person who is eminently qualified. There is no objection to Samuel Heins being confirmed. Yet we can't get a vet on the floor of the Senate because an individual Senator is objecting. That is wrong. We have a responsibility to act.

    David McKean to be Ambassador of Luxembourg, Cassandra Butts to be Ambassador to the Bahamas--that is eight of the total number who are being held that I mentioned. As I said, I intended to make the unanimous consent requests. Senator Cruz has already come to the floor to object. I regret that.

    I urge my colleagues to work out their problems, but do it in a timely way and don't hold America hostage, because that is what you are doing by not confirming these appointments. You are not holding the Obama administration hostage; you are holding America hostage. Who is hurt by not having a confirmed ambassador in Norway? There are Americans who get hurt who depend upon our relationship with Norway. There is a diaspora in the United States that is affected by not having a confirmed ambassador to Norway or to Sweden or to the other countries that we have not been able to get a confirmed ambassador.

    I urge my colleagues who have problems to enjoy the holiday, get some rest, and come back here ready to vote because I think that is what we were elected to do. I urge my colleagues to allow us, when we come back in January, to have votes on these very qualified people who are serving our country and are prepared to serve our country in a more significant way.

    Mr. President, I wish all my colleagues a very happy holiday season.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New York.


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