Ted Cruz’s obstruction leaves Biden with only one confirmed ambassador + Rand Paul continues to delay would-be highest-ranking Muslim official
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State Dept. blockade
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) continues to effectively block almost all State Department nominees, including 59 ambassadors and critical national security positions. Only one ambassador has been confirmed amidst the obstruction: former Sen. Ken Salazar, now the US Ambassador to Mexico.
“It’s really an undermining of the nation’s national security process,” said Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “What we have here is an unprecedented, blanketed holding of all nominees — regardless of whether they have anything to do with the policy issues at stake.”
“That is not something I have seen in 30 years of doing foreign policy work” in Congress, he added. “This is unprecedented.”
While Cruz cannot unilaterally block nominees, he can and has objected to the normal procedure of confirmation, thereby requiring hours of floor time to confirm each nominee—and taking away from pressing matters like infrastructure, debt ceiling, and government funding bills. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) managed to confirm six important State Dept. nominees in the past week by clearing hours of floor time.
Mr. Cruz and his allies insist he is taking a principled stand on Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline project from Russia to Germany that has long been an issue of high interest for him… Cruz accused the Biden administration of showing “weakness” toward Russia. He has since exploited Senate rules to turn confirmation votes — even generally routine ones, for career foreign servants headed for relatively midlevel jobs or low-profile ambassadorships — into hourslong exercises.
Reminder: Cruz did not hold nearly the same concern for former President Trump’s weakness toward Russia. For example, in 2019 Cruz voted to allow Trump to lift sanctions against Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Putin.
“Today, only 26% of the State Department’s Senate-confirmed positions are filled,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, noted during a House hearing Monday with Blinken. “This isn’t because President Biden hasn’t presented nominees. It’s because a single senator has thrown a tantrum and blocked these nominees from getting a vote and prevented national security positions from being filled.”
Related: “EU too: Brussels gets mad at Ted Cruz,” Politico.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) vowed to delay not only all State Department nominees but also every Pentagon nominee unless Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin resign for their roles in the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Obstructing the highest-ranking Muslim official
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to the nomination of Dilawar Syed to serve as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, continuing a months-long GOP blockade of his confirmation. Republicans have cited a variety of reasons for effectively blocking Syed, including his Pakistani origin and the Biden administration’s support for abortion.
The Senate Small Business Committee is evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans, meaning Syed cannot be advanced to a floor vote without at least one vote from the minority party. The Republicans who serve on the committee include Ranking Member Rand Paul, Sens. Marco Rubio (FL), James Risch (ID), Tim Scott (SC), Joni Ernst (IA), James Inhofe (OK), Todd Young (IN), John Kennedy (LA), Josh Hawley (MO), and Roger Marshall (KS). All refuse to approve of his nomination.
First, Republicans on the committee wanted to investigate the loans he took out as a small-business owner. Then they started accusing Syed of being anti-Israel due to his past work as a board member of Emgage USA, a Muslim advocacy group that has supported criticisms of the Israeli government. However, Syed has the support of numerous Jewish advocacy groups like the American Jewish Committee:
American Jewish Committee (AJC) does not normally take positions on nominees requiring Senate confirmation. However, accusations around Dilawar Syed’s nomination based on his national origin or involvement in a Muslim advocacy organization are so base and unamerican that AJC is compelled to speak out.
Syed has been an active partner of the San Francisco Jewish community, including taking part in a program for the national Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, co-convened by AJC. He traveled to Israel with the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco and has been involved in other Muslim-Jewish dialogue efforts…
Syed is also being attacked for his involvement with Emgage, an organization with which AJC has made common cause on a number of shared policy issues. While AJC often disagrees with Emgage on matters related to Israel, its advocacy is done in the great American tradition of respectful public debate. AJC rejects the charge that simply an affiliation with Emgage would reflect negatively on an individual, organization, or agency.
Most recently, Republicans vowed to continue to block Syed’s nomination until Biden’s administration takes back Paycheck Protection Program loans given to Planned Parenthood entities…even though the program originated and was overseen by the Trump administration.
Republicans, including Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a key actor in Syed’s stalled nomination drama, have argued the $80 million the Trump administration provided Planned Parenthood affiliates was improper because the organization “is a multi-billion-dollar company” too large to qualify for the loans. In response, Democratic senators, including Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Cardin, said Planned Parenthood affiliates with fewer than 500 employees are eligible and criticized the “ideologically-driven action against Planned Parenthood organizations.”
Vote to end Afghan refugee aid
After weeks of criticizing the Biden administration for “abandoning” Afghan partners during the withdrawal, every single Senate Republican voted for an amendment to end aid to Afghan refugees. Proposed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), the amendment would have been added to the government spending bill had it received at least 51 votes. However, in the evenly split Senate, the vote was tied 50-50 along party lines.
The amendment would have cut off aid for things such as housing, food and medical benefits after March 31, 2023, for Afghans who were granted parole to quickly enter the United States because of the urgent humanitarian crisis…The amendment also would have cut from the bill language that would have waived certain requirements for obtaining driver’s licenses or identification cards, making it easier for the Afghans to get them…
Before the vote, Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said the amendment would ensure Afghan evacuees are “properly vetted.” But Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, argued the amendment was unnecessary, saying the evacuees were already being properly vetted and it merely blocked badly needed benefits for those in dire need of help.
Related: During a hearing with Gen. Mark Milley, Cotton demanded to know why Milley hadn’t resigned after his recommendations on Afghanistan weren’t followed by the administration (clip):
Cotton: General Milley, I can only conclude that your advice about staying in Afghanistan was rejected. I’m shocked to learn that your advice wasn’t sought until August 25th on staying past the August 31 deadline. I understand that you’re the principal military advisor, that you advise, you don’t decide, the President decides. But if all of this is true General Milley, why haven’t you resigned?
Milley: Senator, as a senior military officer, resigning is a really serious thing and it’s a political act if I’m resigning in protest. My job is to provide advice. My statutory responsibility is to provide legal advice or best military advice to the President and that’s my legal requirement. That’s what the law is. The President doesn’t have to agree with that advice. He doesn’t have to make those decisions just because we’re generals, and it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken. This country doesn’t want generals figuring out what orders we’re going to accept and do or not.
Milley: That’s not our job. The principle civilian control of the military is absolute, it’s critical to this Republic. In addition to that, just from a personal standpoint, my dad didn’t get a choice to resign at Heiwajima, and those kids that are at Abbey Gate, they don’t get a choice to resign and I’m not going to turn my back on them. They can’t resign, so I’m not going to resign. There’s no way. If the orders are illegal, we’re in a different place, but if the orders are legal from civilian authority, I intend to carry them out.
STOCK Act violations
At least 36 members of Congress have violated the STOCK Act so far this year. The STOCK Act requires detailed disclosure of any material gains within 45 days. Almost all violations are late disclosure, sometimes by days and sometimes by years.
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA)
- Sen. Mark Kelly (AZ)
- Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ)
- Rep. Katherine Clark (MA)
- Rep. Susie Lee (NV)
- Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY)
- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL)
- Rep. Lori Trahan (MA)
- Rep. Kathy Castor (FL)
- Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL)
- Rep. Bobby Scott (VA)
- Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO)
- Rep. Brian Higgins (NY)
- Rep. Tom Suozzi (NY)
- Rep. Cindy Axne (IA)
- Del. Michael San Nicolas (Guam)
- Sen. Tommy Tuberville (AL)
- Sen. Roger Marshall (KS)
- Sen. Rand Paul (KY)
- Rep. Pat Fallon (TX)
- Rep. Diana Harshbarger (TN)
- Rep. Blake Moore (TX)
- Rep. Dan Crenshaw (TX)
- Rep. Kevin Hern (OK)
- Rep. Brian Mast (FL)
- Rep. John Rutherford (FL)
- Rep. August Pfluger (TX)
- Rep. Steve Chabot (OH)
- Rep. Victoria Spartz (IN)
- Rep. Rick Allen (GA)
- Rep. Mike Kelly (PA)
- Rep. Chris Jacobs (NY)
- Rep. Warren Davidson (OH)
- Rep. Lance Gooden (TX)
- Rep. Roger Williams (TX)
- Rep. Dan Meuser (PA)