Senate Republicans have been obstructing the confirmation of President Obama’s appointees to an “unprecedented” degree, taking longer to process his nominees than those of the three previous administrations, often for dubious reasons. Now, Republicans are “determined to block” Obama’s pick for the ambassador to El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte, “because of questions about a long-ago boyfriend,” who was baselessly accused of trying to recruit Aponte to spy for Cuba. She had dated the Cuban-American businessman from 1982 to 1994 and “attended some social functions with Cuban diplomats” with him, but the FBI gave Aponte “a clean bill of health” when President Clinton nominated her to a position in 1998, and she has received top security clearance twice since her relationship ended. The Senate Foreign Relations committee approved her nomination late last month, and Cuban-American Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) — who has been a “strong supporter of anti-Castro legislation” — “strongly defended Aponte” during the committee vote:
But Menendez came to Aponte’s defense at the business meeting and said, “If I thought that after having reviewed the file that Miss Aponte would be a security risk to the United States in any context, but particularly in the context of the Castro regime having access to her, I would oppose her. But that is simply not the case.” [...]
Chairman John Kerry, D-MA, noted that she has received top-secret security clearance twice since the alleged affair. Not having an ambassador in El Salvador hurts American interests, he added.
“After an exhaustive investigative process, with the entire U.S. intelligence community looking at this twice since these allegations appeared about her former boyfriend, she has been given top-secret clearance,” Kerry said. “Either our intelligence community is completely incompetent in looking at these things, or we have to trust them.”
Citing congressional staffers, the Miami Herald reports that “Republicans will put a hold on her nomination when it comes up in the full Senate, meaning it will need 60 votes for confirmation.” Opposition to Aponte’s confirmation has been led by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who has also blocked at least two other would-be ambassadors to Latin America, and spearheaded a misguided attempt to intervene in Honduras’ political system after a disputed election there last year.