Blinken urges Senate to confirm dozens of foreign service nominees

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on the U.S. Senate on Monday to confirm 62 nominees for foreign service positions. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
1 of 2 | U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on the U.S. Senate on Monday to confirm 62 nominees for foreign service positions. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

July 18 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken is calling on the U.S. Senate to confirm dozens of State Department nominees whose appointments have been blocked by Republican Sen. Rand Paul over his longstanding demand for more government information on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blinken in a letter Monday called on the senators to quickly move on the 62 nominees outstanding with the chamber. He told reporters later in the day during a press conference that the delays were "undermining our national security" and "weakening our ability to deliver to the American people."


"These men and women yearn to serve -- to do the jobs that they've been preparing for their entire careers. My message to the Senate today is: Let them serve," Blinken said.

"Put our best team out in the field. Stop harming our national security through unjustified delay and unprecedented obstruction. Let these nominees advance the interests of our nation, advance the interests of the American people."


The Senate's refusal also undermines the credibility of U.S. democracy, is a sign of dysfunction and ineffectiveness and weakens the State Department, he said, adding that it also discourages other qualified senior officers from pursuing ambassadorships.

"We cannot -- and we must not -- let this become the new normal," he said.

Of the 62 nominees, 38 are awaiting Senate confirmation and of those, 35 are career foreign service officers.

Blinken said the number of nominees will continue to rise and that by the end of this summer, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon will be without confirmed U.S. ambassadors. Eight nominees are awaiting confirmation to African posts, with ambassadorships open in Asia, Europe and Latin America, he said.

During the current Congress, only five nominees have been confirmed, he said, adding that more than a third of nominees have been waiting about a year or more for their confirmations.

"To defend U.S. national security, to sustain and strengthen our alliances and partnerships around the world, to ensure that our foreign policy is advancing the interests of the American people -- we need our best possible team on the field. By failing to confirm these nominees, a handful of senators are keeping our best players on the sidelines," he said.


The nominations are being predominately held up by Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, though Blinken said a "handful" of other senators are also blocking confirmations.

"They are being blocked for leverage on other unrelated issues. It's irresponsible. And it's doing harm to our national security," Blinken said.

Paul is demanding additional documents from the federal government over the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, as he questions whether it started in a leak from a Chinese laboratory.

"I will continue to exhaust every option I possibly can to get answers on COVID origins and funding," Paul said via Twitter on Monday.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters Monday that they have been cooperating with Paul.

"We have made clear that we see this as an ongoing process. We will continue to provide documents that are responsive to his requests," he said. "But he is asking us for documents that are not State Department documents and documents that we cannot provide because they're not in our possession but yet continues to use that as an excuse to hold up State Department nominees."

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican for Alabama, has also been blocking more than 250 U.S. military promotions since March in opposition to the Pentagon's abortion policy -- a move that President Joe Biden last week chastised as being "irresponsible."


Blinken told reporters Monday that the State Department is in close communication with the Department of Defense to work through the problem.

"Certainly there's been a lot of focus on their nominees or promotion lists. And that, too, is absolutely detrimental to our national security," he said.

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