Republican senator delays Nides’ Israel ambassador confirmation

It is still unclear when the Senate will hold a debate and a floor vote on Nides and other State Department nominees.

US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides (C) talks to South Korea's Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (R), as US Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim listens on, during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul February 29, 2012.  (photo credit: REUTERS/LEE JIN-MAN/POOL)
US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides (C) talks to South Korea's Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (R), as US Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim listens on, during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul February 29, 2012.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEE JIN-MAN/POOL)

WASHINGTON –US Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) voted on Tuesday to block eight of President Joe Biden’s ambassador nominees, including Thomas Nides, who is designated to serve as ambassador to Israel. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked the Senate to confirm several nominees by unanimous consent.

Hawley clarified that some of the objections - including to Nides - were on behalf of several of his Republican colleagues. He did not specify which senator asked him to object for each and every nomination.

“Multiple of my colleagues have objections to all of the nominees, so I will be here to object on their behalf and also on my own behalf with regard to a few of them,” he said.

Prior to the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the Republicans for their objection, calling it “obstructionism.”

“The president relies on an army of dedicated public servants who play a critical role in our government,” said Schumer. “But for months, some Senate Republicans have gone to great lengths to place pointless holds on over a hundred of these nominees. The consequence – scores of empty desks in the State Department and our embassies and Department of Treasury and other agencies.”

US Senator Bob Menendez. (credit: REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ)US Senator Bob Menendez. (credit: REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ)

“These nominees are not controversial,” Schumer continued. “They’re routinely confirmed by consent in this chamber until a few people decide that they wanted to make a big show of this, for whatever reason,” he lamented. “No one ever did this before.

“By this point in the Trump administration, for instance, both sides worked together to confirm 32 ambassadors by voice vote,” he pointed out. “Most of us didn’t like the Trump administration or the people he’s appointing, but we had enough integrity not to let politics enter into what had been routine decisions. Right now, Republican obstructionism has meant only four nominees have been agreed to.”

Hawley rejected Schumer’s criticism.

“I agree that many of these nominees are important, and that is, in fact, one of the reasons we should have a vote on them,” he said. “The Senate majority leader’s comments as if he has no control over the calendar – he’s the majority leader of the United States Senate. He decides when we vote; he decides what we vote on.

“He’s gaveling us out of session so that members across the aisle can go on a field trip to Glasgow, Scotland,” Hawley said.

Menendez replied to Hawley, saying that during the Trump administration, many nominees were approved by a voice vote.

“We will have no ambassador in Israel as we deal with the challenges of Iran and others in the region,” he said.

“It is mind-boggling. All of those who get up here and talk about our ally, the State of Israel – the importance of the State of Israel – but we won’t have an ambassador there to help us meet the challenges that Israel has.”

“A strong US-Israel relationship requires strong diplomatic representation, allowing both sides to work in close partnership and resolve disagreements amicably,” the Israel Policy Forum said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are dismayed that Tom Nides, who is unquestionably qualified to serve as ambassador to Israel, continues to be blocked from a swift confirmation on the Senate floor,” the forum said. “We call on the Senate to act so that Mr. Nides can begin the critical task of representing the US and its interests in Jerusalem.”