Senate Follies Almost Derail Confirmation Of New U.S. Ambassador To Russia

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JOHN TEFFT
John F. Tefft is the new U.S. ambassador to Russia. | Embassy of the United States

In the midst of major political turmoil, fiery rhetoric, sanctions, violence in eastern Ukraine and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, America's new diplomatic envoy to Russia almost didn't get confirmed by the Senate.

On Thursday night, a Republican senator refused to confirm John F. Tefft as the new ambassador to Russia as payback for a procedural change made by the Democrats last year, The Associated Press reported.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said he blocked the vote for diplomatic appointments, including Tefft, because of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to limit filibusters for most presidential nominations.

“We used to pass ambassadors and all kinds of people en bloc like that, but we have this nuclear option now that the majority chose so it takes a little longer to do that whole process, and on that basis, I object,” Enzi said.

The Moscow post has been vacant since February and at least one member of the Obama administration was livid by this move.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting, took to Twitter on Thursday to rail against the Senate's failure:

Tefft, a career foreign service officer and former ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania, was nominated by President Barack Obama only a few weeks ago. A swift confirmation was expected, even though Tefft only had one hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.

During that hearing, Tefft painted a dire picture of relations with Moscow, Reuters reported.

"Our relations with Russia today are in serious trouble and their future is uncertain," Tefft testified to the committee. "The United States cannot ignore the fundamental challenge to the international order posed by Russia’s actions in the Ukraine crisis."

Just as the Senate was preparing to head to recess for the rest of the summer, Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) asked for unanimous consent to bring 25 pending ambassador nominations -- including Russia, South Korea and Guatemala -- to the floor for a vote en bloc, The Post reported.

That's when Enzi raised his objections and basically halted the proceeding.

After much back and forth bickering and a bit of procedural maneuvering, the Senate finally confirmed Tefft as the new ambassador to Russia by a voice vote, Roll Call reported. However, many of the other ambassador post nominees remain unconfirmed.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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