DemDaily: The Confirmation Count: Our Ambassadors

December 20, 2021 

In a marathon session that ended at 4:00am last Saturday, the US Senate confirmed 41 ambassadors, nine federal judges, and five other senior positions, overcoming months of obstruction by Republicans on President Biden's nominees.

Of approximately 4,000 presidential or "political" appointees, more than 1,250 require Senate confirmation as part of its “advice and consent” responsibilities under the Constitution. These include cabinet members, chief financial officers, general counsels, ambassadors and other key leadership positions.

Although most nominees would have the required 50+ majority support, Republicans have successfully stalled some 150 confirmations by tieing up the process with floor debate while bargaining for their international priorities.

As of December 18, 2021, according to tracking by The Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, 54 nominees have been confirmed, 34 nominees are being considered by the Senate, and 32 positions currently do not have nominees.

While GOP Senators, following intense final negotiations, agreed to release their hold on dozens of diplomatic appointments, dozens more still in the backlog will have to be renominated by the President in the 2022 session.

Our Ambassadors
US Ambassadors are individuals nominated by the President to serve as US diplomats to individual nations of the world, to international organizations, and as Ambassadors-at-large. As embassies fall under the State Department's jurisdiction, ambassadors answer directly to the Secretary of State.

Ambassadors to foreign states include those to the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania.

High-profile confirmations include former Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as Ambassador to Japan, and Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat who served under both Republicans and Democrats administrations, as Ambassador to China.

Among those still pending are Caroline Kennedy as Ambassador to Australia and former Olympian and Biden advisor Michelle Kwan as Ambassador to Belize, and former LA mayor Eric Garcetti as Ambassador to India.

Ambassadors to international organizations include those to the United Nations. Although UN Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield was confirmed in February, Ambassador to the European Union Mark Gitenstein was blocked until Saturday.

Others confirmed this month include former Delaware Governor Jack Markell as Ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and famed "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot "Sully" Sullenberger as US Representative to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Cindy McCain, wife of the late Senator John McCain, was confirmed as Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in October.

Ambassadors At Large serve as designated special diplomatic envoys for specific foreign policy issues, like counterterrorism, global health, criminal justice and women's issues.

This month's confirmations include former associate White House counsel and former US Envoy to Muslim countries under President Obama Rashad Hussain as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, and Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Adam Scheinman, who served in the same position under Obama.

Compared to Donald Trump, President Biden is now ahead by about 30 confirmations at this point in his presidency.

Biden also has appointed far more career members of the foreign service compared to former President Trump, who appointed more political nominees, with just 56% career members, compared to the norm of 70%.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Vox, Ballotpedia, Wikipedia, State Department

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