South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was confirmed Tuesday to become the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, placing a rising Republican political star in charge of advancing President Trump’s agenda in an institution whose effectiveness he has questioned.
She will step down from her post in South Carolina to take one of the country’s highest profile diplomatic jobs and one that would burnish her résumé for higher office later.
Haley, who has no formal diplomatic experience, won significant Democratic support. The vote of 96 to 4 reflected some Democrats’ view that Haley would be a sensible diplomat and speak her mind in the new administration.
The four senators who voted no were Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had approved her nomination by voice vote earlier Tuesday.
She won praise from Democrats during her confirmation hearing last week, where she freely aired disagreements with Trump on some policy matters and said that the new president would welcome a range of views.
Haley, who had been critical of Trump as a candidate, voiced heavy skepticism about Russia and optimism about NATO, both deviations from some of Trump’s statements. She unequivocally rejected the idea of a Muslim registry or ban, which Trump has never fully disavowed.
She said she is comfortable with Trump’s “American first” approach and would reassert the traditional role of the United States in recent decades of protecting Israel from United Nations action it considers biased.
She also declared her support for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a shift that Arab leaders have previously said could ignite violence in the Middle East.
At her Jan. 18 hearing, Haley questioned the priorities and effectiveness of the world body, which Trump has called a toothless debating society, but said she intends to “fix” what doesn’t work.
“I have no problem calling people out,” Haley said.
The United Nations is “often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers,” Haley said, adding that she would use the “leverage” of potential cuts in U.S. funding to demand reform.
“We contribute 22 percent of the U.N.’s budget, far more than any other country. We are a generous nation,” Haley said. “But we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution. Are we getting what we pay for?”
Haley is best known nationally for her handling of the 2015 racially motivated killings of black worshipers at a historic Charleston church, for which she got generally high marks. She spoke at memorials and encouraged the removal of the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds.