Ted Cruz to lift nomination blockade for China ambassador

by | Oct 28, 2021 | Foreign Affairs, Policy

While Ted Cruz has been stonewalling the confirmation of Biden’s State Department nominees for months, it appears he will not do so in the case of R. Nicholas Burns, Biden’s nominee for ambassador to China. 

Cruz, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has single-handedly kept dozens of key diplomatic confirmations stuck in limbo. While Cruz cannot block Biden’s nominees forever, he has exploited Senate rules in a way that greatly slows the process. As a result, Biden has far fewer confirmed ambassadors compared to his predecessors. 

Cruz initiated his State Department blockade over Nord Stream 2, a controversial natural gas pipeline between Germany and Russia. The Biden administration decided to waive sanctions on the project as part of a deal with Germany. Cruz wants sanctions reimposed, and is holding Biden’s nominees hostage toward that end. 

In addition to the overarching Nord Stream 2 issue, Cruz has voiced opposition with individual nominations, placing a hold on assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs nominee Barbara Leaf over dissatisfaction with her answers to his written questions.

The unprecedented diplomatic logjam has angered both Democrats and Republicans. “You held over every nominee, every nominee!” said Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) during a testy exchange with Cruz. “I’ve never seen that.” 

However, it seems that Cruz is only willing to go so far. According to Bloomberg, the senator has no intention of stalling Burns’ confirmation as ambassador to China. China is the only country in the world with the potential to match or exceed the economic and military might of the United States in the foreseeable future. As a result, the relationship between the United States and China will be the defining geopolitical issue of our time, and it may be one of the few remaining areas of bipartisan consensus in Washington. Apparently, even Cruz does not want to engage in political grandstanding over such an important diplomatic post, which has gone without a Senate-confirmed ambassador for over a year.

Burns is not the only exception Cruz has made. He recently allowed the confirmation of two former Senators and the widows of two senators to proceed. 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has also promised to stonewall Biden’s national security nominations over the administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, although it’s unclear whether he will do so over Burns’ nomination. “Senator Hawley has said he will hold leadership positions in the State Department and the Defense Department. He does not have a blanket hold on ambassadors. He is still reviewing Nicholas Burns’ nomination,” a spokesperson for Hawley told Axios. 

Burns is a career diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Greece, ambassador to NATO, and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. In his confirmation hearing, Burns highlighted shared interests on issues like climate change and nonproliferation, while also taking a hard line on issues like Taiwan, technology, and human rights. “Beijing proclaims that the ‘East is Rising and the West is in Decline,’” Burns testified. “I am confident in our country, and believe that, together with our allies and partners, we will prove them wrong.”

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Washington Correspondent | + posts

William serves as the Washington Correspondent for the Texas Signal, where he primarily writes about Congress and other federal issues that affect Texas. A graduate of Colorado College, William has worked on Democratic campaigns in Texas, Colorado, and North Carolina. He is an internet meme expert.

Are you tired of Texas Republicans pushing big lies and trying to steal your vote? So are we, that’s why we’re fighting back against the right-wing lie machine. Our commitment to ethical, fact-based journalism is vital to our democracy, and we can’t do it without you. Consider donating today to help us stay in this fight.

Continue Reading

Supreme Court Declares War on Environment

Supreme Court Declares War on Environment

To cap off what is possibly the most right-wing judicial term in over a century, the highest court in the land has dealt yet another massive blow to the progression of common-sense liberal governance. In today’s ruling in the case West Virginia v. EPA, Chief Justice...

Liberal Justices Protect Texas Veterans From Right-Wing

Liberal Justices Protect Texas Veterans From Right-Wing

In a rare good ruling from the nation’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court issued a June 29 ruling in the case of Torres v. Texas that protects veterans from discrimination by state governments and retains legal liability for those same administrations. Military...

Op-ed: Abortion is Inextricable From Voting Rights

Op-ed: Abortion is Inextricable From Voting Rights

From the moment I saw that positive pregnancy test, I knew that I didn’t want to be pregnant. I was a senior in a typical Texas high school, working a part time job at my local McDonalds, who, up to that point, was told how to act, think and believe. But at that...