Two days after Senator Ted Cruz vowed to grind all nominations at the State Department to a halt unless it picked an Inspector General, Foggy Bottom did just that. But it’s not letting the fiery Texan take credit for streamlining the appointment process. Sure, the IG’s position had been empty for more than five years. But the announcement of a new IG candidate 48 hours after Cruz’s threat was a total coincidence, a senior State Department official maintains.
"[It’s] not fair to say at all that it was spurred by the Cruz threat," the official tells The Cable. "This was in the works going back quite some time — back in April the Secretary said on the Hill we had a candidate. Of course the person had to go through standard vetting. The announcement was imminent."
At State, the Inspector General is tasked with preventing and exposing fraud, waste and abuse within the department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. On Thursday, President Obama appointed Steve Linick, the Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Without taking credit for spurring on the appointment, Cruz press secretary Catherine Frazier told The Cable "it is a fortuitous coincidence that after almost 2,000 days of having no oversight at the State Department, the President nominated an Inspector General" following Cruz’s threat.
She added, "Regardless of what brought this about, the entire federal government and all who value proper oversight and accountability of our federal agencies should be encouraged by this concrete step in the right direction. The senator looks forward to discussing his concerns about the Department with Mr. Linick in the near future."
While the State Department insists paperwork and vetting attributed to some of the delay, Kerry and the White House had come under increasing pressure from Congress in recent days to hurry up and make the appointment. On Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed a resolution urging the president to nominate an IG. "We’ve written to President Obama, we’ve written to Secretary Kerry; stressing the importance of appointing a permanent Inspector General," read a Thursday statement from Rep. Ed Royce, the committee chairman. "The resolution is non-partisan for the simple reason that the concept of a Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed permanent IG is fundamental to the very notion of good government."
Cruz’s intervention went beyond those of other lawmakers in his vow to take all other State Department nominations hostage in the process of getting an IG. That threatened to delay the potential confirmation of high profile candidates including Samantha Power, appointed to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Victoria Nuland, appointed as assistant secretary of state for Europe, and Danny Russel, appointed assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. "Until the President acts, I have notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that I will place a hold on all State Department nominations," Cruz said Wednesday, a day after writing to the president.
Other Republicans offered somewhat backhanded compliments to the White House and State Department. "While this nomination is long overdue, I appreciate the president responding to the concerns that I’ve expressed to him and Secretary Kerry regarding this vacancy," Sen. Bob Corker, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. "I look forward to getting to know the nominee as our committee considers his fitness for this important position."
Cruz and other Republicans have criticized the State Department for recent controversies including last year’s attack on Benghazi and the alleged mismanagement of security contractors at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. Cruz, in particular, has been working with Aurelia Fedenisn, a self-proclaimed State Department whistleblower whose lawyers, like Cruz, hail from Texas.