(This post has been updated.)
And we reiterate, nothing in Congress is ever, ever certain. Just as it appeared the Senate was going home leaving the U.S. embassy in Moscow without an ambassador, GOP senators had a late-night change of heart and allowed John Tefft to be confirmed unanimously. But the many other nominees who have been waiting months to leave for their overseas posts will remain in purgatory.
Here’s how things played out earlier when Tefft was originally blocked:
It seemed almost certain earlier in the week when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee rushed through the confirmation of John Tefft to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia that the full Senate would do the same.
But as any casual observer of this Congress well knows, nothing is ever certain.
Just as the Senate was revving to leave Capitol Hill for the next five weeks, Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez asked for unanimous consent to bring a number of pending ambassador nominations to the floor for a vote en bloc. They included career diplomats being sent to Guatemala, and yes, Russia, where the U.S. hasn’t had a top diplomat in place since February.
“We cannot continue a policy of confirmation by crisis,” Menendez said. “[The career foreign service officers] should not and must not be political pawns.”
But the long slog of confirmations is all about retribution for the Senate Democrats’ employing the nuclear option, which is exactly why, just before adjourning for August recess Thursday night, Senate Republicans blocked Menendez’s request.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said he objected because of the nuclear option’s unfairness.
Menendez raised his voice, “I don’t understand how we can actually object to places like Guatemala where we’re having the crisis we just debated right now…about the children who are coming here.”
He then tried to get unanimous consent just to confirm Tefft. Enzi objected again over the Senate Democrats taking away “minority rights.”
Menendez repeated the tactic for the nominee for the South Korea post. Enzi objected again. Menendez tried for Guatemala. No dice.
Guess he can try again in September – when they have two weeks before they leave again to campaign for the midterms. Until then – if even then – the dozens of ambassadors-in-waiting will just have to wait.