White House urges swift confirmation of new Russia envoy
The White House on Friday urged the US Senate to swiftly confirm President Barack Obama's new nominee for ambassador to Moscow, despite a long backlog of would-be envoys awaiting a vote.
Obama named John Tefft, a career diplomat specializing in Eastern Europe, to fill a post that has been vacant, during a period of high tensions between the Kremlin and Washington, since the resignation of Michael McFaul in February.
"We would like to see the Senate move swiftly to confirm Ambassador Tefft, the other ambassadorial nominees announced yesterday, and the 43 that had already been announced," said National Security Council Caitlin Hayden.
Tefft, a career foreign service officer, is a former US ambassador to Ukraine and Georgia, has served as deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs and served as chief of mission in the US embassy in Moscow in the 1990s.
If confirmed by the Senate, he will take up his post during the most challenging period in US-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War, with the rivals at odds over what Washington sees as Moscow's interference in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.
It remained unclear however when Tefft would be cleared to take up his new post.
The White House is increasingly frustrated that many of Obama's ambassadorial picks are in limbo on Capitol Hill, casualties of an era of dysfunction and gridlock in Washington.
Some ambassadorial picks and nominees for State Department posts have waited months for confirmation voters.
Secretary of State John Kerry made a personal plea on Thursday for the Senate to clear more than 40 ambassadorial nominations still pending.
"We're going without our strongest voice on the ground every day in more than 25 percent of the world," Kerry said in Kabul.
With Republicans furious over what they see as Obama's executive overreach, and controversial changes to Senate rules rammed through by Democratic leaders, ambassadorial nominations are struggling to make progress.
Republicans have demanded individual votes on each nominee, instead of employing Kerry's suggestion of confirming the non-controversial diplomatic picks "en bloc," as some military nominations are handled.
The Senate last month confirmed new US ambassadors to Egypt and Iraq and on Thursday, envoys to Kuwait and Qatar were approved.