On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified forcefully that the blocking of crucial State Department nominees more than a year after President Obama was inaugurated was endangering the security of the United States.
We’re now more than a year into a new administration and whether you agree or disagree with a particular policy, a president deserves to have the people that he nominates serving him.
Following the revelation that Senator Shelby was holding up all nominees, almost 30 of the President’s appointments have now cleared the Senate. However, one key State Department nominee remains stuck due to an anonymous hold — Laura Kennedy the nominee for the Conference on Disarmament. This is a post that the President wants to elevate to an Ambassador-level position. The conference is the forum for negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, a vital treaty that would ban further production of nuclear weapons. As a result of this hold, the United States does not have a negotiator participating in this major international — a fact that greatly undercuts security of the United States and the President’s nuclear agenda.
So what mysterious Senator, is holding up this nominee, hamstringing US foreign policy, and undermining American security? Well none other than Arizona Senator Jon Kyl.
Josh Rogin of the Cable confirmed this today and asked Kyl about his obstruction. Demonstrating the heart of a lion, Kyl told Rogin “I’m not sure if I have a hold on her.” Kyl’s staff however rushed to clarify, telling Rogin that the White House hasn’t let them in on the ins-and-outs of all the START negotiations. Kyl’s aide told Rogin:
For some reason they’ve [the Administration] been reluctant to respond. Consequently, Senator Kyl is reluctant to consider their nominees.
While not surprising, Kyl’s aide’s statement is revealing. It essentially admits that the reason Kyl is just crassly obstructing Kennedy has nothing to do with Kennedy’s qualifications, but everything to do with Kyl being a nuclear extremist. An Administration official told Rogin, “Kennedy’s position has nothing to do with those items [START or CTBT] … He will have every chance to scrutinize START when it is submitted for ratification. His pleas for info now are a transparent effort to kill the negotiations.”
Kyl’s foreign policy radicalism is pretty well-known, just yesterday I noted that Kyl associates with a tin-foil hat right wing extremist who believes that Obama is pushing America’s “submission to Shariah.” Kyl after all wants more, not fewer nuclear weapons, and he wants to conduct new explosive nuclear tests in the backyards of citizens from Utah, Nevada, and perhaps even Arizona.
This is also not the first time Kyl has obstructed nominees relating to nuclear weapons. Kyl infamously blocked Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher and slowed lead START negotiator Rose Gottemoeller’s confirmation — both of whom are crucial figures in the negotiations with Russia. Then just a few months later — in an act of stone-cold hypocrisy — attacked the Administration for not getting a new START deal done by the December 5th deadline.
John Isaacs smartly notes that Kyl has not officially come out against a new START treaty and has softened some of his “red lines.” But a Senator does not have to explicitly state his opposition to the treaty to gum up the process and block the President’s nuclear agenda, as Kyl is so clearly demonstrating.