The Cable

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."

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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