A key diplomatic posting is being held up in the Senate — and it could be ‘making things more dangerous for the United States’

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a news conference in Brussels.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a news conference in Brussels.
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Thomson Reuters

  • The nominee for US ambassador to Germany – a crucial posting – hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate more than a month after his nomination moved out of committee.
  • Democrats and Republicans are blaming each other.
  • The State Department is furious with the slow pace of confirmation for its diplomats.

WASHINGTON – The nominee for US ambassador to Germany has been stuck in limbo during a slow pace to confirm executive picks in the Senate.

But top lawmakers cannot pinpoint who is to blame for slow-rolling the confirmation of a post the Trump administration believes is crucial to numerous key diplomatic issues.

Richard Grenell, a former US spokesman at the United Nations who is also President Donald Trump’s first openly LGBT nominee, has been sitting in limbo in the Senate since October 26, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee narrowly approved him to get a full vote on the floor.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said the delayed confirmation was part of “collective foot-dragging on all the ambassadors and executive nominations.”

“I do think that by blocking these ambassadors it is making things more dangerous for the United States at a time when we ought to be using every diplomatic lever we have in order to keep the peace and avoid conflict,” Cornyn added.

Many Republicans suggested Senate Democrats were to blame for placing so many holds on nominations. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, who heads the Senate Republican Policy Committee, told Business Insider that his colleagues “have to prioritize” who gets the go-ahead because very little time is allotted on the floor.

“So you may wanna ask the Democrats what’s holding it up,” Barrasso added. “Because they are slowing down the process, limiting us to about four a week.”

Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the confirmation was being held up because “some of the Democrats have some issues with him.” And Corker said that while he intended to vote to confirm Grenell, he did not know when the vote would happen, citing a busy schedule of other urgent business in the Senate.

During Grenell’s confirmation hearing earlier this year, Democrats took issue with his past statements about certain women, which he said were attempts at humor he deeply regretted. But some Democrats have brushed off issues as the weeks have gone by, saying they are not at fault for any holdup.

“I’m not sure there is a holdup,” Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said. “I think his nomination had some controversy, but I’m not sure there’s a holdup as far as bringing it to the floor on the Democrats’ side.”

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said he had “never placed a hold on a nominee.”

“And he’s come out of committee,” Kaine said. “So the scheduling of things on the floor is usually a matter for the majority.”

State Department officials are furious with the lack of confirmed nominees

The State Department is furious about the lack of confirmed diplomats. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the process “excruciatingly slow” during a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

And the State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert ripped the slow process during a press briefing last week.

“Is this all moving fast enough? Absolutely not,” she told reporters. “We would like it to move faster. The secretary has had conversations internally here and I know he has a lot of conversations with people on the Hill, including a flurry of letters that will go back and forth between our building and also members on Capitol Hill, trying to get people through.”

“So we would like it to move faster,” Nauert added. “Part of that is not having those selections made, but part of that is the responsibility of the Hill as well to get some of those people moved forward.”