09/13/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/13/2021 19:20
SFRC Chairman Menendez's motions to confirm three nominees are approved, breaking through Republicans' ongoing efforts to block State Department nominees
Today's effort follows Republicans' objection to nearly 30 motions to clear nominee backlog for critical national security posts before August state work period
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today took to the Senate Floor to formally request the Senate's unanimous approval of four pending foreign affairs and development nominees whose confirmation is critical to the United States' ability to confront the ensuing humanitarian crisis and refugee resettlement efforts following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in addition to last month's devastating earthquake in Haiti. Three of the four nominees he called up today were confirmed. Confirmations for these nominees, in addition to a host of others, were blocked by Senate Republicans prior to August state work period.
'We urgently need qualified nominees in leadership positions to address these crises,' Senator Menendez said, raising his previously voiced concerns of the danger of leaving these posts unfilled at a time when the United States faces such a confluence of global challenges. 'It is scandalous that these nominees and many others are being held up for reasons completely unrelated to them and the positions they will hold. Such irresponsible behavior jeopardizes our national security. We must act today.'
Today, Senator Menendez urged the confirmation of the following four nominations, the first three of which were approved, and the last of which was blocked by Republican Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas):
Below is a full list of the nominations that were blocked before August state work period below by Senate Republicans:
Find a copy of Chairman Menendez's full remarks as delivered below:
'Prior to the August recess, I, along with Senator Murphy, asked unanimous consent to confirm almost thirty highly-qualified foreign affairs and development nominees who are languishing on the Senate floor. I noted then the danger of leaving these posts unfilled at a time when we are facing such a confluence of global challenges. Two Republican Senators blocked each one of our requests.
Days later, Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake and Afghanistan imploded. While I continue to believe it is essential that this body swiftly confirm every single foreign affairs and development professional whose nomination is pending on the Senate floor, I rise again today to seek unanimous consent to confirm 4 nominees who are critical to addressing the crises in Afghanistan and Haiti.
Ambassador Donald Lu, a career foreign service officer, is the president's nominee to serve as Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. The last Assistant Secretary for this Bureau was confirmed during the Obama administration. To say that this nomination is long overdue is an understatement, particularly now, given the incredibly dangerous situation in Afghanistan.
Post-withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the State Department is the main implementer of U.S. policy in the country. And given the regional implications of Afghanistan policy, it is essential that this role be filled with a seasoned and experienced diplomat like Ambassador Lu.
The region is also home to several other countries critical to U.S. interests. From Pakistan to India to the countries of Central Asia, the U.S. must be present in order to advance those interests and counter the malign influence of both Russia and China.
So I hope that my colleagues will not continue to play games and will support Ambassador Lu's confirmation this evening.
Similarly, it is unthinkable that the State Department's intelligence office - the Bureau of Intelligence and Research - or 'INR' - remains without senior leadership. INR is an invaluable resource for the Secretary of State, senior officials, and indeed all of the dedicated foreign policy professionals that serve our nation so well and so tirelessly. It needs a confirmed leader in place who can help the Department understand the intelligence information that is out there that informs our foreign policy choices, so I am asking my Republican colleagues to permit confirming Brett Holmgren today.
Shifting to Haiti, last month, I came to the floor to highlight the challenges that we face in our own hemisphere, and the impact of regional instability on U.S. national security and our citizens' safety. Already, the situation is more urgent. In August, a massive earthquake in Haiti killed more than 2,200 people, injured 12,000 more, and destroyed tens of thousands of buildings. A coordinated international response is urgently needed.
This new emergency follows the assassination of Haiti's president and mounting crises in the region: unprecedented protests and a widespread repression in Cuba, a brutal regime crackdown in Nicaragua, and an expansive political, humanitarian, and refugee crisis in Venezuela.
COVID-19 continues to inflict severe social and economic consequences on countries across the region. And, there are the enduring security and governance challenges in Central America that fuel irregular migration.
We urgently need qualified nominees in leadership positions to address these crises.
With extensive experience in the Americas, Ambassador Brian Nichols, a career foreign service officer, will skillfully advance U.S. national interests as Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Similarly, Marcela Escobari, who served as Assistant Administrator for Latin America at USAID in the Obama administration, will bring unique expertise to the position if confirmed again today. In 2016, the Senate confirmed her by voice vote. We need her in place and should move her again today.
It is scandalous that these nominees and many others are being held up for reasons completely unrelated to them and the positions they will hold. Such irresponsible behavior jeopardizes our national security. We must act today.'