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In the Loop

A Nomination on Hold

By Al Kamen
Monday, August 9, 2004; Page A13

Eyebrows were raised in Foggy Bottom when the Senate left town the other day without confirming career diplomat James Cunningham, former number two to U.N. Ambassador John D. Negroponte, to be the ambassador to the U.N. organizations in Vienna.

Word is that Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) had put a hold on the nomination.

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Friday's Question:
It was not until the early 20th century that the Senate enacted rules allowing members to end filibusters and unlimited debate. How many votes were required to invoke cloture when the Senate first adopted the rule in 1917?
51
60
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67


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Cunningham was opposed in the State Department's "D" committee -- which handles nominations -- by John R. Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Bolton argued strongly that Cunningham wouldn't be tough enough for the job, which includes overseeing the International Atomic Energy Agency. (For the hard-line Bolton, it's unclear whether Mike Tyson, who could very much use a job these days, would be tough enough.)

Bolton was outvoted in the committee, and Cunningham's name went to the White House, which sent the nomination to the Senate.

The buzz at State is that Bolton, not giving up, "put Kyl up" to blocking the nomination. But other sources say that Bolton backed off after the White House acted and that the picture is more complex.

Apparently Kyl, who blocked Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the Clinton administration, sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Attorney General John D. Ashcroft in June 2003 asking why the treaty was still alive in the Senate. On life support, maybe, but alive.

No response. So along came Cunningham's nomination for a job that would also accredit him to the organization that would administer the treaty.

Meanwhile, some folks at the Pentagon let Kyl know they were unhappy with Cunningham, blaming him for not getting the United Nations to tighten sanctions against Iraq so Saddam Hussein couldn't buy militarily useful items before the war.

Powell called Kyl on behalf of Cunningham and asked him to lift his hold on the nomination. JohnC.Danforth, a former Republican senator who recently succeeded Negroponte as U.N. ambassador, also weighed in, but Kyl wasn't budging.

As it turns out, we are assured that if Kyl hadn't put a hold on the nomination, someone else would have.

The White House is said to have offered a recess appointment, but Cunningham demurred. The nomination is still on the Senate floor, but there's talk that Cunningham may be offered another post if the impasse isn't broken.

Read It and Weep

Who could blame some Republicans for hoping that maybe they'd catch a break every now and again from the Council on Foreign Relations' esteemed magazine, Foreign Affairs, a must-read for heavy-breathing international establishment types.

After all, the new council president is Richard N. Haass, a Republican, a former top foreign policy aide in Bush I and head of the State Department's policy planning in Bush II. Although many doubted Haass's bona fides as a true believer, he would have to be better than former New York Timesman Leslie Gelb, a Foggy Bottom appointee in the Carter administration.

So here are the first five titles, in order, from the magazine's September-October issue: "Former CPA Official Blasts Bungling of Iraq Occupation"; "U.S. Ignores Home-Front Security, Remains Vulnerable to Attack"; "Little Progress by U.S. in Stopping Terrorists' Access to WMD"; then a little something for Haass's old employer, "State Dept. Must Learn to Track Terrorism Carefully"; and, if that's not bad enough, "U.S. Economy Teetering on the Brink."


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