- Win McNamee/Getty Images
- The nominee to serve as US ambassador to Germany has been stalled for several months.
- Democrats have been stalling moving forward, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could force a vote.
- The ambassadorship’s vacancy is making things “more dangerous” for the United States, according to Republicans.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as US ambassador to Germany has been in limbo since last year, leaving open a crucial post amid disputes over key issues like trade and security.
The State Department announced Richard Grenell’s nomination to serve as the top diplomat in Germany in September. Since then, Grenell’s nomination has passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee twice but not made it to the floor for a vote.
In December, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn expressed concern over the national security risks of leaving such an important post open.
“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 told Business Insider.
The delay has prompted the White House to publicly demand his confirmation.
“In short, Senator Schumer’s hyper-political delay on Mr. Grenell puts our national security, and America’s foreign policy interests, in jeopardy,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a press briefing last week, seemingly blaming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for the delay. “The Senate should move to confirm him immediately.”
Trump himself also mentioned Germany as a prime example of what the White House says is obstruction from Democrats.
“Major countries – we have diplomats, they wait in a line because the Democrats don’t want to approve them, because they want to obstruct,” Trump said at legislative summit on Wednesday. “And that’s not good.”
But more than six months after his initial nomination, at least one Democratic senator has placed a hold on Grenell’s confirmation, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Every Democrat on the Foreign Relations committee told Business Insider that they are not responsible for the hold. The possibility also exists that the Democratic senator placing the hold is from outside the Foreign Relations Committee.
“I thought that we had cleared all the holds – there’s opposition to him – but I thought we had cleared the holds,” Sen. Ben Cardin, former ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told Business Insider. “So I don’t have a hold on him and I’m not aware of anybody from Senate Foreign Relations that would’ve been maintaining a hold from Democrats.”
Potentially forcing a vote to expose the hold
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that confirming Grenell might require bringing the vote to the floor to “smoke them out.”
Scheduling a vote would open debate for 30 hours after cloture is invoked to limit debate, which Hewitt, one of Grenell’s most ardent supporters, said “is not too much to ask to have the most powerful non-nuclear nation in the world have an ambassador.”
The lengthy process has resulted in long delays for many cabinet and lower level executive branch nominees.
Later on Wednesday, Graham told Business Insider that he is “dumbfounded” that the post has been left empty for so long. Graham added that he would be discussing Grenell’s nomination with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and whether a vote could be soon be forced.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who previously threatened to halt consent on allowing a vote for Grenell’s confirmation, echoed Graham and said McConnell “can bring it up for a vote anytime he wants.”
Grenell’s nomination initially drew fire from Democrats based on derogatory tweets he wrote several years ago taking aim at women’s appearances.
“Anybody who knows me knows that I am a very caring person and very sensitive – and I also appreciate good humor,” said Grenell, who is gay. “Unfortunately, there are times where what was intended to be humorous turned out to be not so humorous, and, again, that was never my intention and I regret that.”
Nevertheless, many Democrats, while still opposed to Grenell, want a vote and for the position to be filled.
Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said “it’s long overdue for us to have an ambassador to Germany.” Murphy told Business Insider, “I think we should take a vote on him as soon as possible,” and that he thinks “we need to get an ambassador to Germany ASAP.”