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Kerry Urges Senate to Confirm Key Diplomatic Posts

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Secretary of State John Kerry used strong words on Thursday in a call for the Senate to move forward on key diplomatic nominations, saying the delay is hurting American security.

“It just doesn't make sense. It hurts our country, to do what the Senate has allowed to happen over the course of these last couple of years. And that is to leave open, for sometimes more than a year, vacant important positions for our nation,” said Kerry.

According to the State Department, 17 nominees are waiting for Senate confirmation, eight on the floor and nine in the committee.

One of the stalled nomination votes is for Tom Shannon, who was nominated to be Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, the State Department’s third-highest position.

“We have an ambassador, Tom Shannon, a outstanding nominee for undersecretary, a veteran, a foreign service officer whose nomination was approved unanimously by the Senate Foreign Relations committee. And yet, for months, one person has been holding up his nomination: no vote on the Senate floor,” said Kerry.

Kerry also scolded the Senate for procrastinating on Roberta Jacobson’s nomination. As the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Affairs, Jacobson has played a key role in U.S. efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. She has been tapped for Ambassador to Mexico. The delay in her appointment has been viewed by some analysts to be likely related to the Cuba Policy.

“One of our most significant bilateral relationships is with Mexico, and this is true economically, environmentally, socially on border security,” said Kerry, "and it is disparaging to that country that we don't have the respect to send the ambassador that that country needs and deserves.”

The Republican-led Senate did not vote on several nominations before the holiday break.

“This is not the time to have vacancies in our diplomatic posts, and certainly not the time to have a vacancy, because 99 other senators, or 90 other senators - or 80 even, are being refused the opportunity to be able to have a vote,” Kerry urged.