Only two ambassadors have been approved by the U.S. Senate so far, even though the administration led by President Joe Biden was launched eight months ago. People both in and out of Washington, D.C., are raising concerns about empty diplomatic posts as there are many tasks that require cooperation with other countries, such as keeping China in check and responding to potential terror attacks after the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
According to Axios on Sunday, there are only two ambassadors approved by the Senate – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Ambassador to Mexico Kenneth Salazar – since the Biden administration was launched in January this year. During the same period, 56, 50, and almost 20 ambassadors were approved respectively under the Obama, Bush, and Trump administrations. There are 60 nominees for high-ranking positions at the State Department, including ambassador nominee to China Nicholas Burns and ambassador nominee to Japan Rahm Emanuel, waiting for the confirmation of the Senate. According to nonprofit organization Partnership for Public Service, there are 170 seats that require the confirmation of the Senate in the diplomacy and security fields at the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, etc. Only 26 percent of them have been filled.
The biggest reason behind the slow confirmation process is Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s efforts to block it. The senator who is hawkish against Russia is asking for sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 project to build oil pipelines to Europe by leveraging the confirmation of ambassadors. As the diplomacy and security situation is unfolding in an unexpected way due to the aftermath of the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the confirmation process is further placed on the back burner. “Administration officials point out that the confirmed nominees who are in a holding pattern on the Senate floor have received overwhelming bipartisan support and say this demonstrates that the delays are about politics instead of the quality of the candidates,” CNN reported.
An ambassador to South Korea hasn’t even been nominated. Korean-American Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim seemed promising, but it was reported that candidates are now being narrowed down from the beginning. Given the speed of the confirmation process, a new ambassador to South Korea will be appointed in the first half of next year.