WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken appealed to the Senate on Tuesday to quickly confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees for national security-related positions, citing the ever-present risk of attacks.
“It is essential that we accelerate the process for national security appointments since a catastrophic attack could occur with little or no notice,” Blinken told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Senator Bob Menendez, the committee’s Democratic chairman, asked the Senate on Monday to confirm four of some 80 State Department nominees now pending before the Senate, many of them being blocked by Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
Three of the four were confirmed by unanimous consent: Donald Lu to be assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, Brian Nichols to be assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and Brett Holmgren to be assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research.
Cruz blocked the fourth, Marcela Escobari to be an assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Cruz said he has been blocking nominations until Biden imposes more sanctions over Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The pipeline will take natural gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.
Russian company Gazprom said on Friday it had finished construction https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/russias-gazprom-says-it-has-completed-nord-stream-2-construction-2021-09-10 of the pipeline.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Humeyra Pamuk and Doina Chiacu; editing by Jonathan Oatis)