The Senate confirmed a host of State Department officials, some whom had been languishing in Congressional limbo for months, after voting on the debt ceiling bill but just before skipping town for a month.
David Shear is on his way to Vietnam to take up his post as ambassador there after Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) lifted her hold, which she placed in order to pressure the State Department to act on Vietnamese adoption and custody problems. Earl Wayne was confirmed as the U.S. envoy to Mexico, replacing Carlos Pasqual, who had to leave after WikiLeaks revealed that he was critical of the Mexican government's drug war. Pasqual was also dating the opposition leader's daughter, which couldn't have helped.
Derek Mitchell was confirmed as the first-ever special envoy to Burma, which now leaves his past job of principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs open. The position of assistant secretary of defense for Asia is also vacant, and former NSC Chief of Staff Mark Lippert is expected to be nominated for the job. Last month we reported that Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had lodged ‘private objections' to Lippert, but we're told by multiple Hill sources this week that the two senators have never expressed any substantial opposition to his nomination.
David Adams was confirmed as the replacement for Richard Verma as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. We had thought this one would be perfect hold bait, considering the contentious relationship between the legislative affairs bureau at State and some GOP offices, but apparently the appetite for a fight over him just wasn't there.
Other ambassadors now all set to go are Paul Wohlers to Macedonia, William Moser to Moldova, Arnold Chacon to Guatemala, and Frankie Annette Reed, who is headed to the Fiji Islands. Reed will also be in charge of U.S. relations with the Republic of Nauru, the Kingdom of Tonga, Tuvalu, and the Republic of Kiribati.
Many State Department nominations, however, will remain stalled during Congress's one month vacation. Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings for three ambassadors who are all presently serving abroad under recess appointments, but need to be confirmed this year: Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, Ambassador to Turkey Frank Ricciardone, and Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norm Eisen.
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs nominee Wendy Sherman's confirmation hearing, which was supposed to be today, was cancelled because the Senate decided to end the session earlier than planned. Another State Department nomination we are watching is the nomination of Mike Hammer to be assistant secretary of state for public affairs. Hammer, a Foreign Service officer, previously served as the NSC's press secretary.