26 September 2023

UNITED STATES: Foreign posts caught in lockdown

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Nominations for key United States foreign affairs posts are being delayed as Congressional lawmakers grapple with how to conduct confirmation hearings during the pandemic lockdown.

Some of the nominees stuck in place are poised to take up ambassadorships or senior posts in the US Agency for International Development, tasked with helping developing countries avert the worst effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.

One is a nominee to sit on the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation, the embattled United Nations Agency leading the global response to the pandemic but which President Donald Trump said he was defunding.

The controversy over the Senate’s advice and consent powers has erupted into what could prove a constitutional crisis.

Congress has extended its recess until at least early May to adhere to public health guidelines on preventing the spread of the Coronavirus.

In the meantime, it is holding pro forma sessions from afar rather than formally adjourning, a move that has drawn sharp criticism from Mr Trump.

In response, the President threatened to use a never-exercised constitutional power to force Congress to formally adjourn, which would allow him to install his nominees in recess and go around the traditional Senate confirmation process.

Senior Administration posts normally require Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.

Even before the pandemic struck, many senior posts in the Department of State languished for years without nominees from Mr Trump.

Other nominees were held up in the Senate on questions over their suitability, or in partisan disputes.

Former senior diplomats say filling these positions during a global crisis is critical as lower-level officials temporarily filling the roles in acting capacities don’t have the same clout or authority within Washington or with foreign counterparts.

Washington, 19 April, 2020

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