Senate confirms big slate of Biden ambassadors, adjourns for Christmas break without BBB vote

Senate leaves for holiday break without voting on Build Back Better bill

Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram weighs in on the Senate leaving for holiday break without a BBB vote and what to look out for in the upcoming weeks in the Democratic Party.

The Senate confirmed more than 30 ambassadors and other Biden administration nominees early Saturday after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to schedule a vote on sanctions on the company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany.

With many senators anxious to go home for the holidays, Schumer, D-N.Y., threatened to keep the Senate in for as long as it took to break a logjam on a broad array of diplomatic and national security nominees.

Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago, was confirmed to serve as ambassador to Japan by a vote of 48-21. Nominees to be ambassadors to Spain, Vietnam and Somalia were among those confirmed by voice vote soon afterward. The votes came after an agreement was reached to hold a vote concerning Nord Stream 2 sanctions before Jan. 14.

Former White House Chief of Staff and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel visits WSJ at Large with Gerry Baker at Fox Business Network studios Aug. 1, 2019, in New York City. (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The confirmation process has proved to be frustrating for new presidential administrations regardless of party. While gridlock isn’t new, the struggle to staff administrations is getting more difficult.

Biden administration officials acknowledge the president will end his year with significantly more ambassadorial vacancies than recent predecessors and that the slowdown of ambassador and other national security picks has already had an impact on U.S. relations overseas.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, held up dozens of nominees at the departments of State and Treasury over objections to the administration’s waiving of sanctions targeting the Nord Stream AG firm overseeing the pipeline project. The administration said at the time that it opposed the project but viewed it is a fait accompli. It also said trying to stop it would harm relations with Germany.

Critics on the both sides of the aisle have raised concerns that the pipeline will threaten European energy security by increasing the continent’s reliance on Russian gas and allowing Russia to exert political pressure on vulnerable Eastern and Central European nations, particularly Ukraine.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, addresses a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington Oct. 6, 2021. (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo)
(Reuters)

Earlier in the week, Schumer demanded that Cruz lift all of his holds on nominees at the two Cabinet departments as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of any possible agreement on Nord Stream 2 sanctions. Cruz said he was willing to lift holds on 16 nominees. The two sides were trading offers throughout the day Friday.

“I think there ought to be a reasonable middle ground solution,” Cruz said.

While Democrats were intent on making progress on Biden’s nominees, they also viewed it as too little and too late.

“Let’s face it. There is little to celebrate when it comes to nominations in the Senate,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Menendez, D-N.J., blamed some Republicans for “straining the system to the breaking point” and depriving Biden of a full team of national security positions, “leaving our nation weakened.”

“Something’s going to happen in one of these places, and we will not be there to ultimately have someone to promote our interests and to protect ourselves,” he said.

But Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said some of the gridlock on nominations stems back four years when Democrats under Schumer’s leadership tried to prevent many of President Donald Trump’s nominees from being confirmed in a timely manner.

“Sen. Schumer doesn’t have anything close to clean hands here,” Blunt said.

Eight Republicans ended up voting with a majority of Democrats to confirm Emanuel. Three Democrats voted against his confirmation: Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusettsvand Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

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