[Congressional Record Volume 166, Number 218 (Monday, December 21, 2020)]
[Senate]
[Pages S7912-S7913]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



             Unanimous Consent Request--Executive Calendar

  Mr. BOOKER. Mr. President, I appreciate the recognition. I ask 
unanimous consent that the Committee on Foreign Relations be discharged 
and the Senate proceed to the en bloc consideration of the following 
nominations: PN1938, PN2024, PN2101, PN2030, and PN2025; that the 
Senate vote on the nominations en bloc with no intervening action or 
debate; that if confirmed, the motions to reconsider be considered made 
and laid upon the table en bloc and the President be immediately 
notified of the Senate's action.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  The Senator from Idaho.
  Mr. RISCH. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, first of 
all, let me say to my dear friend from New Jersey, I fully agree with 
the five nominees he has put in front of the Senate. Indeed, we had 
good confirmation hearings on all five of those, and none of these 
five--other than the one I am going to the talk about in a second--are 
political appointments. These are career people who have had long and 
distinguished service with the Secretary of State, and they are all 
very legitimate appointees to the places they are appointed to, which I 
am going to reiterate here in just a minute.
  In any event, one was left off the list. I know Senator Booker had 
some issues with that, but I think, in the spirit of cooperation and in 
the spirit of bipartisanship, he offers five, and I will offer a 
compromise of one more. I think that is absolutely fair--five for one.
  But I object, and indeed I would ask unanimous consent that we do as 
suggested by Senator Booker, and that is discharge from the committee 
and approve the following six nominations: PN1938, Mr. Kevin 
Blackstone, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador to the 
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste; PN2024, Ms. Cynthia Kierscht, Class 
of Counselor, to be Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania; 
PN2101, Mr. Brian D. McFeeters, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be 
Ambassador to Malaysia; PN2025, the Honorable Geeta Pasi, Class of 
Career Minister, to be Ambassador to the Federal Democratic Republic of 
Ethiopia; PN2030, the Honorable David Reimer, Class of Counselor, to be 
Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone; and finally, William E. 
Todd, PN1598, to be Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  As I said, none of these are political. They have all had long and 
distinguished careers with the State Department. They all have great 
backgrounds to be Ambassadors, and I appreciate Senator Booker helping 
me move all six of these forward.
  With that, I ask unanimous consent that all six of those be 
discharged and be considered and passed.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Will the Senator so modify?
  Mr. BOOKER. Mr. President, I just want to say I appreciate my friend 
and my colleague, and truly, when he invoked the spirit of cooperation 
and the spirit of bipartisanship, I felt lucky that he didn't invoke 
the spirit of Christmas as well.
  Mr. RISCH. I would like to amend.
  Mr. BOOKER. But I do want to let him know that, indeed, the five 
people are nonpolitical individuals with the State Department. I wish 
we could just move them and get confirmed. But I do have an objection 
to the sixth that he would seek to add, so I will not modify my 
request.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection to the original request?
  Mr. RISCH. I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  The Senator from New Jersey.
  Mr. BOOKER. Mr. President, it is good to see you in that seat, sir. 
The post of Ambassador to Pakistan is one that is highly relevant to 
American national securities, as I think all 100 of us understand. The 
person selected to implement the U.S. foreign policy and engage 
diplomatically with the Pakistani Government must be someone who 
understands that American-Pakistani relationship and the complex and 
evolving challenges to regional stability in South Asia. That person 
must also be someone who can be trusted by the American people and by 
their colleagues at the State Department to carry out U.S. foreign 
policy decisions.
  Unfortunately, there is a disturbing and documented pattern of 
behavior from Mr. Todd that I believe makes him unqualified to serve as 
our Ambassador to Pakistan.
  From 2017 to 2019, Mr. Todd served in a variety of management 
positions at the State Department, including as Acting Director General 
and Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and as Acting Under 
Secretary for Management.
  During that time, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee opened investigations into 
allegations that senior State Department officials, including Mr. Todd, 
were engaging in prohibited personnel practices against other members 
of the State Department's career workforce.

  As a result of these investigations, multiple State Department 
officials told the committees that the administration wanted to punish 
career officials at the State Department often for doing their jobs, 
for following procedures and protocols, and also punish them for just 
raising concerns about policies that they believed sincerely would be 
dangerous or deleterious to American interests.
  Mr. Todd was one of the people political appointees turned to to help 
carry out a lot of those actions. When asked about those allegations in 
the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, it was reported clearly that he 
was unreasonably agitated, even raising his voice when asked about just 
these routine issues.
  The incoming administration has an enormous task. We know the 
challenges in that region. In the entire State Department, there have 
been challenges as well. We should give that new administration a 
chance and not promote someone for what is a really critical 
ambassadorship in a very complex and challenging region. We need to 
make sure that we have someone prominent in the role who can command 
the confidence of State Department officials, and that, in many ways, 
gives the incoming administration a chance to deal with that vacancy, 
which has been, I will note, vacant for 2 years without a nomination.
  He clearly does not have the temperament or the track record of 
standing up for his own employees or for the institution of the State 
Department.
  We should be doing everything in our power to restore credibility to 
American leadership, not just overall in the world stage, which I know 
we all agree on, but also in that region, and work to repair a lot of 
the harm that this individual may have been involved in creating that 
hurt morale so much.
  I have a lot of confidence in the chairman's leadership. We have a 
committee that often works in a bipartisan manner, and I am grateful 
for that. It is one of the pleasures I have in serving in the Senate. 
This role is critical to the country--the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. 
Ambassador Hale left the post in September of 2018, and it was a year 
before the administration nominated someone to the post. So, again, I 
just find it, on top of my previous remarks, odd that the chairman and 
others are now saying that we need this Ambassador now. I believe that 
is not the case, and I believe that there hasn't been an urgency from 
the administration to fill this ambassadorship until today.
  So it is for these reasons that I oppose Mr. Todd's nomination, and I 
hope that my colleague will move the other five. They are deserving 
Foreign Service officers and should be confirmed. They should not be 
held up because of objections to the nominee we have been discussing.
  So we agree on these five nominees. I truly urge my colleague that we 
should not obstruct them because of our differences over one. There is 
a true urgency, I believe, in this season to get what we can agree on 
done, and disagreement rooted as substantially as I believe this one is 
should not hold up the other ones. That is why I think the nominees to 
Ethiopia, Mauritania, Malaysia, and Sierra Leone--I do really believe 
they should be confirmed today.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho.
  Mr. RISCH. Mr. President, I thank Senator Booker for his kind words 
about the committee. I want to commit that we will continue to work in 
a

[[Page S7913]]

bipartisan fashion. On the other hand, we have a disagreement here 
regarding this particular person. He is a well-qualified career State 
Department nominee. He has been nominated, of course, to be Ambassador 
of Pakistan. Ambassador Todd is a career member of senior executive 
service. He is well qualified to serve as the Ambassador. He is 
currently serving as the Deputy Under Secretary of State for 
Management. He has a wealth of experience, having previously served as 
Ambassador twice, to Cambodia and Brunei.
  His qualifications notwithstanding, now is really not the time to 
leave the ambassadorship and the mission in Islamabad vacant.
  The others we have are also good. I don't think that it is unfair to 
ask that we have a trade of five for one.
  In any event, we respectfully disagree at this point. I have no 
doubt, as we move forward, we will have other things we do agree on, 
but at this time, I am going to continue to object to the five.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming.