By: Patrick Goodenough
November 24, 2014
(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Sunday that incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should announce that the new Republican-led Senate will withhold confirmation of all administration nominees apart from crucial national security posts, unless President Obama “ends this lawless amnesty.”
Cruz’ proposed response to Obama’s executive action on immigration comes at a time when the State Department, for one, has been appealing to Congress to approve dozens of backlogged diplomatic nominations, describing the need as a desperate one.
“We need to impose real consequence,” Cruz told “Fox News Sunday.”
“Step number one that I have called for is the incoming majority leader should announce if the president implements this lawless amnesty, that the Senate will not confirm any executive or judicial nominees – other than vital national security positions – for the next two years, unless and until the president ends this lawless amnesty,” he said.
Host Chris Wallace asked whether that meant Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch as attorney-general should be held up, leaving Eric Holder in the post.
“In my view, the majority leader should decline to bring to the floor of the Senate any nomination other than vital national security positions,” Cruz replied.
“Now, that is a serious and major step. It is a power the majority leader has, and nobody else has any ability to alter– if the majority leader announced that, it would impose real consequences on the president and the administration.”
Cruz also called for some funding to be withheld unless Obama backtracks.
“The second big check we’ve got, the second constitutional power we’ve got is the power of the purse, and we should fund one at a time the critical priorities of the federal government, but also use the power of the purse to attach riders,” he said.
“We’ve got to demonstrate that the campaign words Republicans used on the trail were more than just talk, that we’re willing to honor our commitment.”
As the lame duck Congress winds down, the administration has been pushing hard for the Senate to confirm a long list of diplomatic nominees, some of whom have been waiting for more than a year.
A number of nominees were finally confirmed last week, including ambassadors to Bahrain, Brunei, Bangladesh, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Paraguay, Rwanda, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.
But the State Department says around 50 are still waiting, half of them career foreign service officers. If they are not approved by the end of the 113th Congress the administration will have to begin the process afresh after the new, GOP-led Senate convenes in January, with re-nominations and new committee hearings.
So concerned is the department that last week spokesman Jeff Rathke opened three consecutive daily press briefings with appeals to the Senate to speed up the process, setting Thanksgiving as an ideal target.
“We need the Senate to act on these nominations as quickly as possible,” he said on Thursday. “It’s in the best interest of our foreign policy and it’s the right thing to do for career professionals who have dedicated their lives to working to make our country stronger and safer.”
Rathke thanked McConnell, outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and the committee’s ranking member and next chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), for their support in trying to reduce the backlog.
Among those who have been waiting longest are the nominee for Foreign Service director-general and head of human resources, Arnold Chacon, who was nominated in October 2013 and approved unanimously by the committee last February.
“He is a real star,” Rathke said. “He also happens to be the first Hispanic ever elevated to this position, which is important particularly for a secretary who wants a State Department that reflects all of our country. This matters for many reasons. Let’s get Ambassador Chacon confirmed.”
Awaiting confirmation since July 2013 is Frank Rose, nominated to head the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance.
“It’s critical, in the department’s view, that we get these nominees confirmed before the Senate adjourns for the year to prevent further delay in meeting our foreign policy objectives,” Rathke said.
“And while we appreciate the progress just made, we know that America is stronger if the backlog is cleared and our nominees are confirmed before Thanksgiving.”
According to White House data there are also about 40 federal judge nominees awaiting confirmation, including five who were renominated last January.
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