Senatorial courtesy prevails for some diplomatic nominees

Jeff Flake and Tom Udall among 33 nominees advanced Tuesday

Former Sen. Jeff Flake, nominee to be ambassador to Turkey, and his wife, Cheryl, were in the Senate Reception Room on Tuesday, the day his nomination advanced. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Former Sen. Jeff Flake, nominee to be ambassador to Turkey, and his wife, Cheryl, were in the Senate Reception Room on Tuesday, the day his nomination advanced. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted October 19, 2021 at 6:37pm

Former senators and Senate spouses appear to be on the path to quick confirmation after being reported out of the Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

But others on the list of 33 foreign policy nominees advanced by the panel to the floor may have to continue to wait.

Former Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., won voice vote approval as part of a larger en bloc nominations package to be the top diplomats in Turkey and New Zealand, respectively.

Vicki Reggie Kennedy, widow of longtime Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, also received the Foreign Relations panel’s backing to be ambassador to Austria, while Cindy McCain, widow of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., received voice vote approval for the position of U.S. representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.

In a statement after the markup, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the Foreign Relations panel’s chairman, renewed criticism of Republican senators who have slowed the consideration of nominations on the floor — regularly leading Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York to file cloture motions to break potential filibusters for otherwise routine nominees.

“Unfortunately, we have been unable to move forward with a number of nominations hearings at the subcommittee level because we have had no Republican who has stepped up to serve as the ranking member,” Menendez said during the markup.

While not all of the nomination votes were unanimous and some GOP senators expressed opposition to particular nominees, there were no senators demanding separate roll call votes, a sign that at least for an afternoon, the processing of nominations was moving.

The slate advanced Tuesday includes President Joe Biden’s picks to be U.S. ambassador in a number of key locations around the world, including Canada and Israel, as well as NATO and other international organizations.

And when it comes to former senators and their spouses, it would be customary for them to be near the front of the line for Senate floor action.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has had a long-standing objection to nominees to State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development positions, with Cruz citing the Biden administration’s decision not to impose sanctions over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that could allow Russia to expand its influence in Europe.

Cruz did not hold up the confirmation of former Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., to be ambassador to Mexico and has indicated that senatorial courtesy will also apply to Flake and Udall. The same is likely true of McCain, the widow of a senator with whom the Texas Republican served, as well as Kennedy.

Rachel Oswald contributed to this report.