The pattern is one we’ve come to expect.
1. The television appearance.
David Bossie, former deputy campaign manager for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential effort, appeared on “Fox and Friends” on Monday morning and argued that confirming Trump’s ambassador picks — such as his ambassador to the United Kingdom — needs to happen “at a quicker pace.”
2. The tweet.
Trump, watching at the White House, takes that argument and runs with it in a tweet.
3. The reality.
But that tweet is misleading and incorrect.
The Washington Post, along with the Partnership for Public Service, has been tracking Trump’s nominations to fill Senate-confirmable positions in his administrations. Of the 559 positions that require such confirmation, Trump has announced 117 people to fill the positions, fewer than other recent presidents.
In the context of the current discussion, there are two important figures to point out. The first is that, of 50 ambassador positions to be filled, Trump hasn’t announced a nominee for 38 of them, according to our data.
But there’s also that group of 15 people in dark gray on the chart above: The people who he has announced to fill positions but for whom he hasn’t begun the formal nomination process. Once Trump says “I am going to appoint John Smith to serve as ambassador,” the Senate doesn’t automatically start voting on it. The White House needs to submit that nomination formally to allow for the nominee to be confirmed. For 15 people, Trump has announced a nomination but hasn’t begun that formal process — including for three ambassador nominees.
One of them, Robert Wood Johnson — better known as New York Jets owner Woody Johnson — has been waiting nearly 140 days since Trump announced that he was being tapped to serve as ambassador. That’s the longest wait for any of Trump’s nominees and, significantly, it’s the position at issue right at the moment: ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have complained that Senate Democrats are slowing the confirmation process. There have been nominees whose confirmations have been delayed by Democrats in committee (as with Trump’s nominee for a Treasury Department post on terrorism and financial crimes) and ones whose confirmations were delayed as Democrats forced votes on parliamentary tactics, which happened to Terry Branstad, nominated as ambassador to China.
But Senate Democrats changed the rules in 2013 to disallow filibusters of nominees by the minority. The result? Senate Republicans can leverage their slim majority to pass nominations without having to worry about votes from Democrats.
What’s more, if urgency is a concern, Congress could certainly spend more time in session.
Trump has made this same argument before. In early March, he tweeted that Democrats hadn’t approved his full Cabinet — which they hadn’t, since Trump hadn’t formally nominated people to fill all of those positions.
In this case, there’s a simple way to get an ambassador in the United Kingdom who will adhere to the administration’s worldview.