Early Saturday morning, the Senate finally acted to pass a host of legislative items and confirm a slate of ambassadors, just before leaving town ahead of the 2012 election.
Following days of stalemate caused by Sen. Rand Paul's insistence on a floor vote to on his bill to cut all aid to Pakistan, Egypt, and Libya, a deal was finally struck Friday to give Paul his vote as part of a package that included a vote on Sen. Lindsey Graham's resolution establishing the sense of the Senate that containing a nuclear Iran is not an option for U.S. policy.
The Paul bill was defeated 10-81. The Graham resolution, also led by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Bob Casey (D-PA), passed 90-1, with only Paul voting against it.
The deal also included a vote to pass, by a 62-30 margin, the continuing resolution to keep the government funding past Oct. 1 and a cloture vote on Sen. Jon Tester's "Sportsmen's Act," a bill to relax restrictions on hunting on federal lands, which succeeded 84-7. A final vote on that bill will be the first item of business when the Senate reconvenes Nov. 13.
Other foreign-policy items passed early Saturday morning included a Senate resolution (S.Res. 466) calling for the release from prison of former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and a bill (S.Con.Res.50) expressing the sense of the Senate that U.S. policy should be to keep the Internet free from government control around the world. Both of those were approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.
The Senate also passed by unanimous consent a bill to give the Obama administration the flexibility to vote yes on lending to Burma in international financial institutions. The administration was not permitted to support such lending under previously imposed legislative sanctions, and this action represents significant sanctions relief timed with last week's visit to Washington by longtime dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi, now a member of the Burmese legislature.
The Senate also passed a bill (S.3341) to support implementation of the State Department's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, a bill to make Oct. 26 the "Day of the Deployed" to honor service members, and a resolution "commending the 4 American public servants who died in Benghazi, Libya, United States Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty, for their tireless efforts on behalf of the American people, and condemning the violent attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi."
Several ambassadors were confirmed just before Senators left
town, including Sharon English Woods
Villaros to be ambassador to Mauritius and the Seychelles, Dawn Liberi to be ambassador to
Burundi, Stephen Mull to be ambassador
to Poland, Walter North to be ambassador
to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, Richard Olson to be ambassador to Pakistan,
Joseph E. Macmanus to be the U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Robert Stephen Beecroft to be ambassador to Iraq.
The Senate also conferred the rank of "career ambassador" on three State Department officials: Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement William Brownfield, Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney, and Ambassador to Brazil Tom Shannon.