DemDaily: Who Are Our Ambassadors? The Confirmation Count
March 22, 2023
Former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was confirmed as United States Ambassador to India last Wednesday, becoming the 145th confirmed ambassador under President Joe Biden.
Although a majority of ambassadors are ultimately confirmed by voice vote, some 10% of nominees become the subject of greater debate -- over their qualifications or, more frequently, as a bargaining chip in larger legislative battles in the narrowly divided US Senate.
The 52-42 confirmation of Garcetti came 20 months after he was nominated by Biden, with several Republicans breaking party ranks to support filling the critical, high-profile diplomatic post.
US Ambassadors are nominated by the President to serve as US diplomats to individual nations of the world, to represent the US in international organizations, and address broader global issues as ambassadors-at-large.
As embassies fall under the State Department's jurisdiction, ambassadors answer directly to the Secretary of State but "serve at the pleasure of the President."
Of approximately 4,000 presidential or "political" government appointees, more than 1,250 require Senate confirmation as part of its “advice and consent” responsibilities under the Constitution -- including some 200 ambassadors.
Normally a year-long process, individuals, who fall into either the "career" diplomat or "political" appointee category, are heavily vetted prior to the president's nomination.
They are then referred to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee for consideration and potential further investigation, as well as public hearings.
The committee votes on the advancement of the nominee to the full Senate for approval -- which requires a majority for confirmation.
Ambassadors to foreign states include those to the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania.
Among the top posts: United Kingdom (Jane Hartley), China (Nicholas Burns), Japan (Rahm Emanuel), Germany (Amy Gutman), Russia (Lynne Tracey), India (Garcetti), Brazil (Elizabeth Frawley Bagley), Mexico (Ken Salazar), Israel (Thomas Nides), France (Denise Bauer), Italy (Vacant), Spain (Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón) and Canada (David Cohen).
Ambassadors to international organizations include those to the United Nations, led by senior diplomat and UN Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield.
Included in the two dozen posts in this category are Representative to the European Union (Mark Gitenstein), Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Julianne Smith), Representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Yohannes Abraham), and Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture (Cindy McCain).
Ambassadors-at-Large serve as designated special diplomatic envoys for specific foreign policy issues, like counterterrorism, global health, criminal justice and women's issues.
Those include, among others, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (Rashad Hussain), Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice (Beth Van Schaack) and Ambassador-at-Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy (Nate Fick).
In addition, there are six Trade Representatives and six other positions that hold the rank of Ambassador.
According to The Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, 145 Biden nominees have been confirmed, 42 nominees are being considered by the Senate, and eight positions currently do not have nominees.
Biden, who pledged to "restore America's diplomatic standing" after the Trump administration, has appointed more career members of the foreign service than his predecessor.
While most presidents in recent decades have given 70% of ambassadorships to career appointees, former President Donald Trump awarded just 56%, with the remainder going to his political allies and donors.
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Sources: Vox, Ballotpedia, Wikipedia, State Department, Partnership for Public Service, Poliico, All Charts: DemList