US President Joe Biden is too slow on nominations

Much ink has been spilled and many speeches have been made about the fate of President Joe Biden’s nominees. We hear allegations of undue delay, bias, and injustice, as well as accusations about the challenges these delays present to U.S. national security. The point is, there are serious issues of grassroots politics and control at play, and these arguments sidestep the thoughtful conversations we should be having to score political points.

My policy on appointments is no secret. I believe a leader should be able to pick their team and get them into action as soon as possible. As Governor of Idaho, I learned first-hand that having my staff in place was essential to serving the people of Idaho and achieving my goals, and I selected people for my cabinet who represented and interests of Idaho.

Many of Biden’s nominees have been delayed due to a very serious political fight over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Congress, on a largely bipartisan basis, has passed several laws regarding this pipeline and sanctions against Russia regarding its construction and its certificate. My colleagues and I have repeatedly asked for legal justifications for why the laws are not being implemented as written. The administration did not provide proper legal justification.

Much ink has been spilled and many speeches have been made about the fate of President Joe Biden’s nominees. We hear allegations of undue delay, bias, and injustice, as well as accusations about the challenges these delays present to U.S. national security. The point is, there are serious issues of grassroots politics and control at play, and these arguments sidestep the thoughtful conversations we should be having to score political points.

My policy on appointments is no secret. I believe a leader should be able to pick their team and get them into action as soon as possible. As Governor of Idaho, I learned first-hand that having my staff in place was essential to serving the people of Idaho and achieving my goals, and I selected people for my cabinet who represented and interests of Idaho.

Many of Biden’s nominees have been delayed due to a very serious political fight over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Congress, on a largely bipartisan basis, has passed several laws regarding this pipeline and sanctions against Russia regarding its construction and its certificate. My colleagues and I have repeatedly asked for legal justifications for why the laws are not being implemented as written. The administration did not provide proper legal justification.

The United States Senate has a clear constitutional role of advice and consent, and I and all other senators take that responsibility seriously. This means that the administration and the Senate must work together to move candidates through the process quickly.

This is the root of the problem: Biden has been slow to appoint people, especially ambassadors. The president didn’t name his first country ambassadors until April 19, 2021, and even then it took months for a critical mass of candidates to come to the Senate. Virtually all of the nominees were submitted without the required documents for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to begin its review process, creating a backlog just as the Senate was retiring for August and Afghanistan was collapsing.

These first step delays persist. As of January 28, the president had still not appointed any ambassadors to serve in the Philippines, South Korea, Sudan or Ukraine. It was only after I sent him a letter earlier this month that he appointed an ambassador for the UK. All of these countries are either close treaty allies of the United States or face significant security challenges that could soon escalate into conflict. Failure to find candidates to fill these positions sends the wrong message that diplomacy with these countries is not so important.

At the same time, an administration must engage with the Senate and respect our constitutional duties and concerns before a nominee is confirmed. The President and his team have an obligation to provide information in a timely manner so that the Senate can do its job and fully consider a candidate. This fact seems lost on the Biden administration. He would not share information with the lawmakers responsible for the discharge of his candidates.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has the responsibility to perform basic oversight of State Department and diplomatic activities, but these efforts are routinely thwarted by the administration. Briefings are difficult to organize and when they do take place, little substantive information is provided. This filibuster forces senators to use the tools available to carry out our work.

For example, I asked Biden’s two ambassador candidates to China and Germany exactly the same questions about Chinese influence. The candidate for China showed himself available and received without delay the hearing and the confirmation of his committee. On the other hand, the administration and the candidate from Germany have been deadlocked. After three months of withholding information, the candidate finally provided the information I asked to see. Within a week, she had her audition.

Likewise, I’ve been asking for months to see relevant State Department cables related to the work of Biden’s nominee to lead the department’s Office of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance. The State Department refused to provide any cables I asked to see. It became such a problem that I inserted a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act – recently enacted – which legally obliges the state to provide the information, but the ministry still has not shared the necessary cables. The administration’s reluctance to follow the law is precisely what is preventing it from putting its nominee in place.

In the administration’s first year, it took more than six months for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to call Sen. Ted Cruz to discuss the way forward regarding his candidate deductions, delayed due to the dispute. policy on Nord Stream 2. In this same time, the White House only called me for four candidates. When I identified the paths to follow, there was never a follow-up. We badly need ambassadors everywhere in the world, but the Senate can only function with what we are given. I urge the President to take our political concerns more seriously. When an administration works well with the Senate, our national security is better served.

Kevin E. Boling