A rare moment of bipartisan momentum by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has propelled the confirmation of the U.S. ambassador to Russia – a post that’s been vacant since February.
Career foreign service officer John Tefft only had his hearing Tuesday, but that was apparently just a formality because the senators had long made up their minds. In fact it was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who asked to move Tefft unanimously “as quickly as possible.”
So after the hearing – during a full Senate vote in the evening - Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) convened members of the committee in a back (but not smoke-filled) room off the chamber floor for a quick impromptu vote with the hope that Tefft could be sent off to Moscow before Congress adjourns for five weeks.
The final full Senate vote could come Wednesday, showing if it really, really wants to, Congress can get its work done. And swiftly.
Tefft, who was formerly ambassador to Ukraine, was only officially nominated by Obama a few weeks ago, so he’s cutting the long queue of waiting ambassador noms, but everyone is in agreement that having an envoy in place in Russia should probably be a priority. Tefft told the senators that America’s “relations with Russia today are obviously in serious trouble and their future is uncertain.”
The Foreign Relations panel also confirmed a slate of other ambassador nominees and had to approve them as well off the Senate floor earlier in the day because the committee did not have enough senators present at its meeting to hold the vote.
See video above as Menendez realizes he needs to bide time before he can call that vote.