When the Senate returns from Thanksgiving, the first pressing business will be confirming a pair of President Barack Obama's nominees who might not stand a chance in a Republican-led Senate.
The Senate is set to vote on Dec. 1 to limit debate on the nominees to be ambassadors to Argentina and Hungary, both of whom were criticized early this year for not knowing much about the countries in question. Neither nominee is a career diplomat. They're both major Obama campaign contributors.
That itself is far from unusual — presidents of both parties have long sought to install supporters in prime diplomatic spots around the world — but documents from the State Department obtained by Olivier Knox of Yahoo raised questions about both Colleen Bell, the television producer who is up for the post in Hungary, and Noah Mamet, who is in line for Argentina.
The publicity earlier this year about Bell, Mamet and another nominee — George Tsunis to be the top U.S. diplomat in Norway — appeared to be put them all on ice. Now, at least two will have a chance to move forward, provided that Democrats do not themselves get cold feet.
The decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to call up the two nominees is a reminder that for the rest of the lame-duck session Democrats can get anyone nominated by Obama through to confirmation without needing any Republican votes, thanks to Reid's move to effectively change the Senate's rules governing debate on nominations.
That move, through use of the "nuclear option," happened precisely one year ago. Since that time, a slew of nominees with a variety of levels of experience faced the legislative equivalent of rubber-necking, with Secretary of State John Kerry having previously reached out to Reid about getting people through to confirmation. Other less contentious ambassadorial nominees have begun to move since then.
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