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State Dept.: stalled ambassador nomination is impacting relations with European ally

The stalled nomination of Norm Eisen to become ambassador to the Czech Republic is becoming an issue in the U.S.-Czech relationship, according to the State Department. Eisen, who left his job as White House ethics czar in August, is facing opposition in the Senate from Finance Committee ranking Republican Chuck Grassley (R-IA). As The Cable ...

The stalled nomination of Norm Eisen to become ambassador to the Czech Republic is becoming an issue in the U.S.-Czech relationship, according to the State Department.

Eisen, who left his job as White House ethics czar in August, is facing opposition in the Senate from Finance Committee ranking Republican Chuck Grassley (R-IA). As The Cable reported Wednesday, Grassley is leading a bicameral effort to hold Eisen accountable for what Grassley says are misrepresentations Eisen made to Congress regarding the White House firing of Gerald Walpin as Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable that the stalled Eisen nomination came up in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s bilateral meeting Wednesday with Czech First Deputy Prime Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who was in town to announce the deployment of more Czech troops to Afghanistan.

"The Czech Republic is understandably concerned about the extended absence of a U.S. ambassador," Crowley said. "His absence does affect our relationship. The Secretary reiterated our commitment to the nomination and hopes that Mr. Eisen will be confirmed in a lame duck session."

Grassley’s office hasn’t specified what exactly Eisen or the administration could do to encourage him to lift his hold. If he doesn’t relent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would have to file cloture and hold a roll-call vote on the nomination, which is possible but difficult due to the scarcity of floor time during the post-election Senate sessions.

Not all Senators share Grassley’s contention that Eisen’s role in the Walpin affair remains unsettled. In a June 2009 letter (PDF) to President Obama, Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) wrote that the administration had proved it met the legal requirements for notifying Congress when an inspector general is removed.

Eisen’s allies are also circulating this parody newsletter created by Walpin as evidence that his behavior warranted his termination. In the fake newsletter, Walpin wrote satire news announcements that some saw as inappropriate, such as an item "reporting" that former New York Governor Elliott Spitzer was a leading candidate to head the Office of the Inspector General’s procurement shop.

"If selected for this important post. I plan to bring a high level of service and satisfaction to the procurement process," Walpin had the fake Spitzer quoted as saying. "My policy is, either vendors put out or get out."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin