The vacancies are coming into sharper view this week as the president embarks on the second overseas trip of his term, first for the Group of 20 summit in Rome and then to Glasgow, Scotland, for the United Nations climate summit known as COP26.
To date, only four of Biden’s choices to be a U.S. ambassador to a foreign government have been approved by the Senate — three of them just on Tuesday. ThatPreview (opens in a new tab) means Biden is lagging considerably behind his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, who at this point in his presidency had 22 such U.S. ambassadors confirmed, 17 of them by voice vote, according to data compiled by Senate Democratic leadership aides.
The delays stem from threats by some Republican senators, led by Ted Cruz (Tex.), who has been angling for a fight with the Biden administration over matters of national security. That is prolonging the usually routine process of getting ambassadors formally installed, while several high-profile posts are also vacant because the White House has yet to put forward nominees for them.
Among the other 19 members of the G-20, 15 of them do not currently have a U.S. ambassador in place (Indonesia and Russia have U.S. ambassadors who were held over from the Trump administration). Biden has yet to nominate his own pick for Italy, which this year is hosting the annual gathering of leaders from the world’s largest economies, nor for the European Union, United Kingdom, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Australia.
The four ambassadors to foreign governments — Mexico, Turkey, New Zealand and Austria — who have been confirmed are either former senators or the widows of former senators, whom Cruz said he would not block as a courtesy. Cindy McCain, the widow of former senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), was also approved Tuesday as the U.S. representative to a United Nations food agency, which gives her the rank as ambassador. And the Senate approved Linda Thomas-Greenfield as United Nations ambassador as part of the Cabinet confirmations earlier this year.
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