The Senate wrapped up its summer session Thursday after confirming a large bloc of executive nominees, including a former senator and former House member. It also approved awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to former Sen. Bob Dole, the 94-year-old Kansas Republican whose long service included stints at majority and minority leader and who has continued to advocate causes ranging from the rights of the disabled to veterans issues.
Among the 69 nominees confirmed in multiple en bloc packages, by voice vote and by unanimous consent, was a former member of the club, Texas GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to NATO. Her selection comes at a time when relations with NATO have frayed in light of Trump’s criticism of fellow NATO signatories and his icy relationship with top NATO leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Also among the nominees confirmed was former Rep. Mark Green to serve as the new head of the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID.
The Wisconsin Republican, who has years of foreign aid management experience, comes to the job at a time when many lawmakers are worried Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to merge the semi-independent USAID with the State Department.
“I pressed hard for the confirmation of Mark Green to be the new USAID administrator,” Delaware Democrat Chris Coons said. “I think he’s someone who can bring some professionalism to the future direction of foreign assistance in the Trump administration and I’m glad we were able to get this done before we went on recess.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has complained bitterly about the Democrats’ insistence on taking nominations one at a time as retaliation for the way the health care debate played out, pronounced himself pleased after the passel of nominees were approved.
“The Senate has confirmed more executive branch nominees this week than all of the executive branch nominees confirmed this year — combined,” the Kentucky Republican said on the floor. “This was an important step towards filling critical roles throughout the administration, including the deputies at multiple Cabinet offices who had been lacking these key positions. Moving forward, I hope this agreement represents the way forward on confirming nominees so our government can be fully staffed and working for the American people.”
Among several pieces of legislation cleared Thursday, the Senate approved by voice vote to award Dole the Congressional Gold Medal. The Kansas Republican served in the chamber from 1969 until he stepped down in 1996 to focus on his ultimately unsuccessful bid for the presidency.
“From his days in Russell, Kansas, his service in World War II, and his lifetime dedication to public service, Bob Dole embodies the American spirit,” Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts said in a statement.
Andy Van Wye and Rachel Oswald contributed to this report.