Blinken condemns GOP senators who block diplomatic appointments on abortion and transgender health care

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Beijing, Sunday, June 18, 2023. (Leah Millis/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Beijing June 18, 2023. Blinken called on GOP senators who acted to block key diplomatic and military appointments. (Lea Millis / Associated Press)

A handful of senators are blocking the confirmation of dozens of highly regarded Biden administration ambassador nominations on largely partisan issues having nothing to do with the candidates’ qualifications, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Monday. .

In an unusual head-on confrontation with Congress, Blinken complained that the action of some senators is crippling the United States’ ability to project influence on the world stage, stifling the American voice in critical Middle Eastern countries and of Europe during the raging crisis. war in Ukraine and harm to national security.

The diplomatic delays come as hundreds of U.S. military promotions — including the appointment of the commandant of the Marine Corps, leaving an acting leader in charge for the first time in more than 100 years — blocked by a single Republican senator from the United States. Alabama, former football coach Tommy Tuberville. He opposes Department of Defense efforts to provide reproductive and gender-affirming care to service members.

“By not confirming these nominees, a handful of senators are keeping our best players on the sidelines,” Blinken said.

In comments Monday to reporters and in a letter to senators, Blinken said while appointments of career foreign service officers to key diplomatic positions are generally anything but pro forma, and that 170 have been confirmed over the past two first years of the Biden administration, only five ambassadorial assignments survived this year, leaving 38 languishing. More than 20 other lower-tier appointments are also stalled.

“The vacancies have a long-term negative impact on the national security of the United States, including our ability to reassure our allies and partners and to counter the diplomatic efforts of our allies,” Blinken said in the letter, citing China’s aggressive campaigns to post large diplomatic missions across Africa and Latin America, where Beijing’s economic influence is expanding exponentially. China and Russia benefited the most from the Senate deadlock, Blinken said.

Learn more: Republican senator should drop ‘irresponsible’ protest and military OK candidates, Biden says

Blinken laid most of the blame on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who issued a blanket grip on appointees for his document requests involving the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Paul has the right to request documents, “what we object to is him holding candidates hostage,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

At the current rate, Blinken said, such crucial top positions as those in Israel and Egypt could remain vacant by the end of the summer.

“No one questions the qualifications of these career diplomats,” Blinken said during a State Department press briefing. “They are blocked from leverage on other unrelated issues. It is irresponsible and it harms our national security.

Congressional Republicans want to subpoena Blinken to force him to hand over internal cables dealing with Afghanistan. A so-called dissident cable, in which diplomats express differences with US policy, exists in connection with the disastrous US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The State Department offered its contents to congressional investigators, but some lawmakers want to see the original document.

Meanwhile, Tuberville has been blocking major promotions in the U.S. military for weeks because of the Department of Defense’s progressive health policies, including reimbursing service members who must travel for abortions, as well as health care. gender affirming health. It is estimated that by the end of the year he will have blocked more than 600 appointments.

The military sees these measures as ways to maintain inclusive armed services. But opponents like Tuberville and his GOP allies say American taxpayers shouldn’t pay for the programs.

“[The military] should buy the weapons we need to defend our nation and sustain our troops,” Tuberville ally Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Fox News over the weekend.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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