US Senate confirms several officials including ambassador to EU

The U.S. Senate on Saturday approved a flurry of nominations for overseas diplomatic posts, including President Joe Biden’s longtime “best friend” and former aide Mark Gitenstein to be U.S. ambassador to the European Union. 

Senators also confirmed former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to be ambassador to Japan and former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell for ambassador to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

Emanuel was confirmed on a 48-21 vote and most of the other nominees were approved by voice votes. 

The action came after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) struck a deal with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to lift his hold on 32 nominees in exchange for vote in January on Nord Stream 2, the Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline. Cruz had been slow-walking dozens of foreign policy nominees over the Biden administration’s decision to waive sanctions on the pipeline, forcing Schumer to use valuable floor time on the nominees or cut a deal with Cruz.

Gitenstein was chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden was chairman in the late 1980s. Together, they led a successful long-shot bid to halt President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two decades later, when Biden was vice president, he described Gitenstein as “my best personal friend” during a trip to a Romania, where Gitenstein was ambassador.

Gitenstein most recently has been a special counsel at the Mayer Brown law firm, where he advised clients on how to do business in Central and Eastern Europe. Now he will play a key role in the Biden administration’s efforts to work with the EU to respond to rising competition from China.

Other nominations approved today include: 

— First Lady Jill Biden’s chief of staff Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon to be ambassador to Spain; 

— Former ambassador to Belgium and executive director of Women for Biden during the 2020 campaign Denise Campbell Bauer to be ambassador to France; 

— Massachusetts House of Representatives Majority Leader Claire Cronin to be ambassador to Ireland; 

— Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Japan and Korea Marc Evans Knapper to be ambassador to Vietnam.

— Senior State Department adviser and former CARE USA vice president Bathsheba Nell Crocker to be the representative to the UN and other international agencies in Geneva;

— Marcela Escobari to be assistant administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, a post she previously held in the Obama administration; 

— Surgeon and author Atul Gawande to be assistant administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Global Health. 

Afterward, the Senate adjourned for the year, leaving a number of trade nominees pending. Those include María Pagán to be ambassador to the WTO, Christopher Wilson to be USTR’s chief intellectual property negotiator and Marisa Lago to be under secretary of Commerce for international trade.

The nomination of Alan Estevez to be under secretary of Commerce for industry and security is also still awaiting a Senate vote.

Andrew Disiderio contributed to this article.



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