The United States maintains embassies in 169 countries around the globe, and in roughly a fourth of them, the ambassador's office is currently empty. The main problem is Senate Republicans creating needless delays, regardless of the consequences for U.S. foreign policy.
The problem is especially striking in Turkey, which is critical to U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, most notably against Islamic State. The Obama administration is giving Turkey the full-court diplomatic press, which is proving to be tricky -- there is no U.S. ambassador to Turkey because Senate Republicans haven't allowed a vote on President Obama's nominee. (The White House was forced to dispatch
the Bush/Cheney ambassador to Turkey in a temporary capacity because of the immediacy and urgency of the situation.)
Al Kamen reports today
that the delays finally ended, at least in this limited case.
The Senate on Wednesday, moving at what can be called warp speed in the post-"nuclear option" world, confirmed seven more Obama nominees -- including career Foreign Service officer John R. Bass as ambassador to Turkey, a country critical to the effort to defeat the Islamic State militant group. The Senate held a roll call vote on the nomination -- before voting 98 to 0 to confirm him.
The GOP also graciously allowed a unanimous confirmation vote on career diplomat Thomas Frederick Daughton's nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to Namibia. He only had to wait 443 days
for the vote on his confirmation -- which literally no one ended up opposing.
John Bass' becoming ambassador to Turkey didn't take nearly as long -- he only waited about 100 days -- but the fact he, too, enjoyed unanimous support
raises the question of why he couldn't have been confirmed sooner in light of Turkey's geo-strategic significance.
The answer, of course, is that Senate Republicans' feelings were hurt
when Senate Democrats restored minority rule on nomination votes, which may seem ridiculous, but which happens to be true.
Just how often do Republicans delay nominees they support? You might be surprised.
Senate Democrats published an item
on this in June.
Not content with only blocking bills and nominations they actually oppose, Republicans are even filibustering nominations with UNANIMOUS SUPPORT. This year alone, Senate Republicans have already blocked confirmation votes on 22 nominations that they later voted unanimously to confirm, wasting literally days of post-cloture time in the process. This week alone, Republicans blocked confirmation votes on 4 nominees that later earned unanimous support.
At least in theory, when Republicans stand in the way of nominees they object to, it's at least rational -- senators in the GOP minority have a problem with a nominee, so Republicans do what they can to block the nominee.
But with these ambassadorial nominees, we're talking about a different dynamic entirely: GOP senators are standing in the way of the very same people Republicans later vote to confirm. They do this to waste time, to register their hurt feelings over the "nuclear option," to annoy the White House, and because they can.
The world's greatest deliberative body at work.