[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.