Senate Confirms Ambassador to Russia 08/01 06:24
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After a period in limbo with a slew of other nominees to
be U.S. diplomats around the world, John Tefft gained Senate confirmation
Thursday night as America's new envoy to Russia.
Sen. Mike Enzi didn't make it easy.
When the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Bob Menendez
of New Jersey, sought approval of several diplomats in a single vote late
Thursday, Enzi objected. That put off all those nominations just as the Senate
prepared for its August recess.
Enzi, R-Wyo., had been unhappy with the decision last year by Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to limit filibusters for most presidential
In turn, blocking Tefft's confirmation made White House staffer Ben Rhodes
unhappy. "How can people criticize the president for being 'disengaged' on
Russia and then block the confirmation of an ambassador to Russia?" tweeted
Obama's deputy national security adviser.
A short time later, however, the Senate took up the nomination of Tefft and
confirmed the career diplomat by voice vote. Ambassadors for Turkey, Guatemala
and several other nations were left in limbo.
In spite of Enzi's action, Tefft's confirmation was remarkably fast because
the Foreign Relations Committee had cleared it only Tuesday. With his deep
experience in eastern European affairs --- he had been ambassador to Ukraine
under Obama and ambassador to Georgia under President George W. Bush --- Tefft
himself had drawn little but praise as a nominee for the post in Moscow.
Meanwhile, dozens of other diplomatic nominees await confirmation by the
Senate, which will be on summer break for the next five weeks.