Two key Senate Democrats have informed the Obama administration that they will oppose the nomination of Chartwell Hotels founder George Tsunis – who bundled or contributed more than $1.3 million for President Obama in 2012 – to be ambassador to Norway.
We’re told Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told the White House back in February that she intended to oppose the nomination. In a statement Wednesday, she citing his performance at a confirmation hearing and concerns from constituents. This week, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry noted his constituent’s concerns — Minnesota has the country’s largest Norwegian American population — that Tsunis would not be able “to serve effectively.”
“We should not do anything that might unnecessarily damage our strong relationship with Norway,” Franken told Kerry.
Tsunis, grilled by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at a confirmation hearing January, stumbled badly on a question about anti-immigrant sentiment in Norway. He also referred to Norway’s “president,” when, as a constitutional monarchy, that nation doesn’t have a president. (It does have a border with Russia, however.)
The press in Norway was outraged by Tsunis’s responses at the hearing. The reaction in Minnesota apparently was just as strong. With 55 Democratic votes in the Senate, the loss of the Minnesota duo may not be fatal, but it sure can’t be good.
But the State Department is not backing away. “We still support and will continue to work with the Senate, a senior official there told The Loop, to resolve any outstanding questions and get George confirmed as soon as possible.”