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Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks to the Press

Earlier today, I sent a letter to all members of the Senate expressing my serious concern regarding the significant delays in confirming State Department nominees.  As I made clear in the letter, these delays are undermining our national security and they are weakening our ability to deliver for the American people.

Let me just start with the numbers.

At present, the State Department has more than 60 nominees with the Senate.  Thirty-eight have completed all the other steps and are on the Senate floor awaiting confirmation.  Of those 38, 35 are career Foreign Service officers.

Now, that number is going to keep going up, as more sitting ambassadors complete their tours, more nominees come forward.  By the end of the summer, we expect Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon will all be without confirmed U.S. ambassadors.  Eight nominees are awaiting confirmation for posts in African countries.  And it’s not just the Middle East and Africa where we’ve got this problem:  Ambassadorships are open in Asia, in Europe, in Latin America, as nominees await confirmation.  So are key issue-focused positions, like, for example, our counterterrorism coordinator.

During the current Congress, only five nominees have been confirmed.

In previous administrations, the overwhelming majority of career nominees received swift support to advance through the Senate by unanimous consent.  Today, for reasons that have nothing to do with the nominees’ qualifications or abilities, they are being forced to proceed through individual floor votes.

Over a third of those nominees have been waiting approximately a year or more – some longer than 18 months.

These nonpartisan public servants have served for decades across Republican and Democratic administrations.  They represent our most skilled, our most seasoned diplomats.  Their talents are the products of generations of investment by American taxpayers.

To defend U.S. national security, to sustain and strengthen our alliances and partnerships around the world, to ensure that our foreign policy is advancing the interests of the American people – we need our best possible team on the field.  By failing to confirm these nominees, a handful of senators are keeping our best players on the sidelines.

Now, I worked in the Senate for years.  So, of course, did President Biden.  I respect and value its critical oversight role; it’s crucial to ensuring that we have highly qualified individuals representing the United States around the world.

But that’s not what is happening here.  No one has questioned the qualifications of these career diplomats.  They are being blocked for leverage on other unrelated issues.  It’s irresponsible.  And it’s doing harm to our national security.

Confirming these nominees matters.  As every member of Congress knows, our ambassadors are the face of the United States in the countries where they serve – our leading advocates for and with foreign governments and citizens.

We have extraordinarily dedicated and qualified career officers who are serving as chargés in these countries where the positions are left open – and I’m immensely grateful for their service.  But all of them would tell you the same thing:  There is a difference between a chargé and a confirmed ambassador.

Foreign governments know that ambassadors carry the full weight of the President of the United States and the United States Senate.  As a result, ambassadors often have greater access and influence, where they – which they can use to advance the interests of our country.

Here’s who loses out when we don’t have a U.S. ambassador in place in a given country: American companies, investors, and entrepreneurs who want to do business there.  American citizens who live in that country or experience an emergency while they’re overseas.  American students who study there, American tourists who visit.  And the citizens of those countries, who yearn for – and benefit from – deeper ties with the United States and with our people.

Our department and the entire U.S. government lose out as well.

Not having a confirmed ambassador in a given country makes us less effective at advancing every one of our policy priorities – from getting more countries to serve as temporary hubs for SIV processing, to bringing on more partners for global coalitions like the one we just announced to combat fentanyl, to support competitive bids for U.S. companies to build 5‑ and 6G networks and other critical infrastructure projects around the world.

We also lose sight to the insights into countries that our ambassadors uniquely can develop through the unique relationships that they have at the highest levels of government, business, civil society.

Now, here’s who benefits from failing to fill these essential positions: America’s adversaries.  Only our adversaries, who are constantly looking to exploit any weakness or any opening to their advantage.

The refusal of the Senate to approve these career public servants also undermines the credibility of our democracy.  People abroad see it as a sign of dysfunction, ineffectiveness – inability to put national interests over political ones.

These unnecessary delays also weaken the State Department as an institution – something I am charged with upholding and defending.  They discourage highly qualified senior officers from pursuing ambassadorships because they don’t want to put themselves or their families through this limbo – with their careers and their lives put on hold, as well as the lives of their spouses and their children.

These delays also discourage rising officers, who see the pinnacle of a career in the Foreign Service increasingly closed off to them.

It strains credulity that some of the members of Congress calling most loudly for outcompeting our rivals are at the same time tying our hands behind our back.

We cannot – and we must not – let this become the new normal.

These men and women yearn to serve – to do the jobs that they’ve been preparing for their entire careers.  My message to the Senate today is:  Let them serve.  Put our best team out in the field.  Stop harming our national security through unjustified delay and unprecedented obstruction.  Let these nominees advance the interests of our nation, advance the interests of the American people.

Thank you.  Happy to take some questions.

MR MILLER:  Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  So just a couple things on this, Mr. Secretary.  And welcome back, by the way —

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