- By Laura RozenLaura Rozen writes The Cable daily at ForeignPolicy.com.
All State Department nominees are on hold, some Hill and other sources tell The Cable.
A Congressional source says that Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) put a hold on all State Department nominees earlier this week because he is not satisifed with the information he has been receiving from the administration on the progress of arms control negotiations with Russia.
"Kyl’s beef and the general Republican argument now emerging against the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons policy is that they are rushing to conclude a new agreement with Russia on strategic arms levels before their Nuclear Posture Review is complete," a Democratic congressional source said.
"In an ideal world," he continued, "we should wait for the Nuclear Posture Review to be done before, and only then go into negotiations. But guess what: the START treaty expires December 5, after which there will be no arms control" if they don’t get a new treaty negotiated.
Kyl’s office did not immediately return a call.
To try to resolve the matter, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a briefing yesterday, Hill sources said, to which it invited leadership and senior members. At the briefing, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation Rose Gottemoeller briefed senators on where the negotiations are right now. Kyl wants more information and has asked for a second meeting, the Democratic congressional source said.
Senate Foreign Relations Committe staffers claimed to be in the dark about any blanket hold. They noted that some nominees had been confirmed just this week: Ambassador at Large and Coordinator of U.S. government activities to combat HIV/AIDS Globally Eric Goosby, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz, and Amb. and Coordinator for Threat Reductions Programs Bonnie Jenkins.
They said only two nominees were put on hold from going to a unanimous consent Senate floor vote: Rep. Ellen Tauscher, the nominee for under secretary of state for arms control and international security, and Kurt Campbell, the nominee to be assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
But a second Hill source who did not want to be identified said it was his understanding that all State nominees were currently on hold by Kyl, and that the chairman of the SFRC, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the State Department, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) were trying to resolve the matter. A third Hill source also said it was his understanding all State nominees were currently under a blanket hold from Kyl.
The State Department said it couldn’t immediately provide an answer.
Meantime, another source says Republicans are threatening to put appointments for the entire administration on hold due to their ire over the scheduling of Obama’s Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor for a July hearing. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) apparently scheduled the hearing before consulting the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).