The Senate has yet to confirm a number of President Obama’s nominees to various State Department posts. One of those nominees, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) — a champion of repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy — has had a hold placed on her nomination to become Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. But the hold on her nomination is not anonymous, as Foreign Policy’s Laura Rozen reports:
A blanket hold placed late last week by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on all State Department nominees appears to have been lifted on Saturday, administration sources tell The Cable. Kyl’s only remaining hold, The Cable was told, is on Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), President Obama’s nominee to be under secretary of state for arms control and international security.
Kyl’s office confirmed his remaining hold on Tauscher’s nomination. “He honestly has made no guise of his hold on her nomination,” spokesman Ryan Patmintra told The Cable Monday.
When asked why Kyl is placing a hold on Tauscher, a spokesperson said, “He expressed privately to the administration his concerns. He has chosen not to discuss them publicly.” Indeed, Kyl’s office did not respond to an inquiry from ThinkProgress.
But last week, Rozen reported that Capitol Hill sources said Kyl “is not satisified with the information he has been receiving from the administration on the progress of arms control negotiations with Russia”:
“Kyl’s beef and the general Republican argument now emerging against the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons policy is that they are rushing to conclude a new agreement with Russia on strategic arms levels before their Nuclear Posture Review [NPR] is complete,” a Democratic congressional source said.
However, the Obama administration has to move quickly because the arms control agreement with Russia — the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), a verification regime signed in 1991 — expires on Dec. 5. The Obama administration has made no secret of wanting warmer relations with Russia. In recent negotiations, both nations have expressed interest in “much deeper cuts in strategic arsenals than those achieved by START when it came into force.”
Nuclear non-proliferation expert Joseph Cirincione told ThinkProgress, “Senator Kyl wants to delay any arms reductions until the Nuclear Posture Review, then work the process so the NPR makes only minor changes to the existing nuclear arsenal.”
Indeed, if Obama makes a deal with Russian President Medvedev to drastically reduce nuclear stockpiles, Kyl — who is against reducing America’s nuclear weapons — won’t have much of an opportunity to challenge it. Kyl would rather play domestic politics with the NPR and have a chance at limiting nuclear reductions before any U.S.-Russia binding agreement. Thus, it appears Kyl is using the NPR as an excuse to block U.S. negotiations with Russia, and is holding up Tauscher’s nomination as blackmail.
Yale Law School dean Harold Koh’s nomination to become the State Department’s legal advisor was also put on hold anonymously. However Rozen reports today that a cloture vote on his nomination passed this morning on a 65-31 vote.