Obama's picks for foreign policy posts still stuck in Senate

AP News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2015 5:43 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fourteen of President Barack Obama's nominations for top foreign policy posts and ambassadorships were left on the cutting room floor Friday when the Senate failed to vote on them before closing its business for the year.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, has placed a blanket hold on all Obama political appointees to the State Department over what he called the "catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal." And Democrat and Republican members have placed various holds on specific nominations, including Obama's pick of Roberta Jacobson for ambassador to Mexico.

Several top positions at the State Department and many ambassadorships, including ones for Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas, are awaiting votes.

The inaction angered Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who took to the floor Friday to criticize his fellow senators for holding up the votes for reasons unrelated to the individuals' qualifications for the jobs.

"We've got to get this done," Cardin said. "The reason we're not voting has nothing to do with these individuals. Nothing. Not one thing. These are qualified people."

He added, "You're not holding the Obama administration hostage, you're holding America hostage."

The nomination of Jacobson, the current assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, has been stalled for more than six months. Last month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-7 to advance her nomination to the Senate floor. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to hold what is considered one of the most U.S. important diplomatic posts due to the countries' proximity and key relationship.

The delay in Jacobson comes amid a surge in unaccompanied minors across the border. U.S. Border Patrol figures show that more than 10,000 unaccompanied children crossed into the U.S. in October and November, double the number of crossings in the same two months of last year. The increase has already prompted federal officials to open two shelters in Texas and one in California.

Obama's previous nominee, Maria Echaveste, withdrew from consideration in late January, citing a prolonged nomination process and the interests of her family.