Obama Can Thank Ted Cruz for Helping Him Fill Key Posts
The Texas Republican’s grandstanding allowed Harry Reid to push a wave of White House appointees through the Senate.
Republicans are ripping Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for inadvertently helping Barack Obama’s administration push through the controversial nominations of a number of key foreign-policy nominees, including Tony Blinken for deputy secretary of state and Frank Rose for assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, a key arms control post.
Those nominations have long been opposed by hawkish Republicans and faced a number of procedural hurdles to confirmation. But this weekend, Cruz bucked his own party leadership and kept the Senate in session for a rare Saturday workday in order to protest the president’s executive action on immigration. Cruz, a Tea party firebrand, had no intention of helping the White House, but his parliamentary maneuvering had the unintended effect of allowing Democrats to move forward with a whopping 24 White House nominees on Saturday — dramatically shortening what is normally a time-consuming process.
“He gave [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid the opportunity to do some things he couldn’t otherwise do,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Ok.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Foreign Policy. “It was not a good thing.”
Without Cruz’s stunt, the Senate could not start voting on the nominees until Monday night, limiting the number of appointments the chamber could jam through before the end of Congress’s session.
Sen. John McCain, who has previously blasted Blinken as “totally unqualified” for the nomination, said Cruz made a big mistake. “I’ve talked to him about it,” McCain said before walking into the Senate chamber on Monday. “I said I didn’t think it was a good idea.”
Now, to the chagrin of many Republicans, Blinken is expected to be confirmed on Tuesday in a tight party line vote. “[Tony’s] a classic example of a guy who’s been wrong every step of the way,” said McCain, ticking off a range of grievances related to the administration’s handling of Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and Russia. Earlier in the month, McCain placed a hold on Blinken’s nomination.
Despite McCain’s complaints about his lack of qualifications, Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security advisor, has held a range of demanding foreign policy positions in the White House, Capitol Hill and Foggy Bottom, and enjoys a warm relationship with senior State Department personnel.
“He runs the interagency meetings at the White House and I’ve long admired his skill at getting positive results of out of meetings when people have disagreements,” John Tefft, a career foreign service officer and the current U.S. ambassador to Russia, told FP. “He’s a terrific nominee for deputy secretary of state.”
Secretary of State John Kerry had initially wanted to give the post to Wendy Sherman, the department’s No. 4 official, but was overruled by President Barack Obama, who preferred Blinken, a trusted and well-liked White House aide.
Rose, nominated by the president way back in July of 2013, has waited longer for confirmation than any other appointee. Despite his work for both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives such as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Inhofe oppose his nomination due to their opposition to Obama’s New START treaty aimed at reducing the number of nuclear weapons and launchers that the U.S. and Russia deploy. “He supports the administration’s policy of appeasement,” said Inhofe.
Despite that opposition, Rose was confirmed by voice vote on Tuesday morning. As head of the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (no longer on an acting basis) he will continue to focus on compliance issues related to international arms control agreements, especially with regards to Russia.
A number of Republicans blame Rose’s last-minute confirmation on Cruz — a charge the Texas Republican’s spokesperson called “bogus.”
“Everyone knows Harry Reid planned to jam forward as many nominees as he could after the omnibus passed,” said Catherine Frazier. “Unfortunately, there are many on both sides of the aisle who want to distract from the more important debate over the President’s unilateral action to grant amnesty.”
This is not the first time the firebrand conservative has found himself in the crosshairs of the Republican establishment, a dynamic he seems to relish.
In the fall of 2013, Cruz led the charge to shut down the federal government if the president would not agree to eliminate Obamacare, his signature domestic policy legislation. The move damaged Republicans politically and infuriated the leadership who viewed his actions as opportunistic and reckless. When Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer asked him if he would dare to shut down the government again, Cruz blamed the incident on Democratic partisanship.
“I didn’t threaten to shut down the government the last time. I don’t think we should ever shut down the government,” Cruz said. “It was Harry Reid and President Obama … Why is it hard to understand that they forced the shutdown, when they think it benefits them politically?”