The Washington Post

Senate confirms three ambassadorial nominees in minutes, but will there be time for more?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , center left, and  Majority Leader Harry Reid, center right, held hands at the Capitol in June. (EPA/JIm Lo Scalzo)

We’re now into serious nail-biting time for about 150 nominees pending on the Senate floor to see if they’ll be confirmed before the Senate slithers out of town for a five-week recess.

The slow-boat route, via filing for cloture, would mean that, in the best of circumstances, only a handful of nominees would get confirmed. (Consideration of each nominee can tie up the Senate floor for hours of debate before a vote.)

But administration officials are said to be in close contact with the Senate leadership on how to move as many people as possible, focusing on non-controversial nominees such as the more than two-dozen career Foreign Service officers looking for ambassadorships.

The preferred way, as far as the nominees are concerned, would be to have the traditional slate of people go through with the “unanimous consent,” of all senators. That would allow large numbers to be confirmed at one time. In the post “nuclear option” world, after the Democrats moved to limit filibusters on most nominees, this seem most unlikely.

But a second option –confirming nominees by a quick voice vote — might be the way to at least get some important nominees confirmed. In fact, three long-pending ambassadorial nominees — career diplomats for Cameroon, Algeria and Mauritania — who’ve been waiting a total of about 760 days (or more than one million minutes) were confirmed Tuesday in 2 minutes and 7 seconds via this route. Would have been quicker but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), sitting in the chair, was reading slowly.

(Michael Hoza, the nominee for Cameroon, where the terrorist group Boko Haram is on the prowl, was one of the subjects in an excellent, must-read Washington Post article last week on the plight of career diplomats waiting many months for confirmation.)

This has been the path for some non-controversial nominees — people who have sailed unanimously through committee votes, for example — in the past, so there’s hundreds of fingers crossed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may use this route for other folks in the next two days.

If there are no voice vote agreements, looks like you’ll all be waiting until — maybe — the fall.






Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.



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