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Better Late Than Never: The Senate Finally Confirmed Some Ambassadors

After some not-so-subtle prodding from the State Department, the Senate has finally confirmed a handful of ambassadorial nominees from the long list of men and women who have been waiting — and waiting, and waiting — for approval. Between returning from summer recess and adjourning for midterms Thursday, the Senate approved 13 diplomats. Among them ...

U.S. State Department
U.S. State Department

After some not-so-subtle prodding from the State Department, the Senate has finally confirmed a handful of ambassadorial nominees from the long list of men and women who have been waiting — and waiting, and waiting — for approval.

Between returning from summer recess and adjourning for midterms Thursday, the Senate approved 13 diplomats. Among them are John Hoover, who had waited 428 days for confirmation after being nominated as ambassador to Sierra Leone, and Matthew T. Harrington, approved as ambassador to Lesotho after waiting 411 days. While they were waiting, Ebola broke out in Sierra Leone, and Lesotho plunged into political crisis after an alleged coup.

Among the other nominees confirmed this week were John R. Bass as ambassador to Turkey and Jane D. Hartley as ambassador to France — important appointments for U.S. efforts to strengthen the coalition against the Islamic State. Also approved, as ambassador to South Korea, was Mark Lippert, a controversial nominee for Republicans due to his close ties with the Obama White House.

Ambassadors to Ireland, Zambia, Guatemala, Namibia, Monaco, and various international bodies won approval, as well, but more than 50 other nominees are still waiting. Noah Mamet and Donald Lu, nominees to Argentina and Albania, respectively, have been in limbo since July 2013.

A State Department spokesman said this week that the trickle of confirmations wasn’t enough. He pointed to an op-ed that Secretary of State John Kerry published in Politico in July calling for the Senate to confirm nominees en masse. This is the process used for military nominees, but Senate Republicans haven’t allowed it for diplomatic confirmations since last November, when Democrats changed the rules to block Republicans from filibustering nominees.

Since then, the Senate has confirmed just a few ambassadorial nominees each month, letting the backlog build.

“Without the authority of an ambassador, we cannot engage fully with officials at the highest levels in places where shared democratic values are under threat,” Kerry wrote.

Meet the 13 newly minted U.S. ambassadors and representatives. Click on each photo to learn more about the diplomat.

Graphic by Emma Carew Grovum

Justine Drennan was a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously reported from Cambodia for the Associated Press and other outlets. @jkdrennan

 @emmacarew

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