WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate confirmed ambassadors to Norway and Sweden early Friday -- bringing to a close a drawn out political fight on the Senate floor between Sen. Amy Klobuchar and GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz.
Minnesotan Sam Heins, a lawyer and human rights advocate, is now the ambassador of Norway. The country has gone 869 days without an ambassador. For the Sweden post, the Senate confirmed Azita Raji, an Iranian born Wall Street executive living in California.
Cruz had placed a "hold" on the two nominations -- a Senate procedure used to block actions -- because he opposed President Obama's nuclear deal. On Friday, Cruz spokesman Phil Novak said he lifted his hold because, after seven months, "he feels like he has successfully drawn attention to the issues that he believes are catastrophic in the Iranian nuclear deal."
That, and Cruz wanted to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy after a dissident. The Senate granted that wish Friday, naming the open area "Liu Xiaobo Plaza."
For the past seven months, Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken have called out Cruz's hold as an unfair poltiical maneuver that was hurting critical Scandinavian allies.
"I went to the floor every day for six days in a row to ask for consent or give a speech about it," Klobuchar said. "I am really pleased ... We once again have a Minnesotan in the embassy in Norway. History has been repeated."
"For far too long, the United States has been without ambassadors to Norway and Sweden," Franken said, in a statement. "Our nation shares a strong bond with both countries and nowhere is that more evident than in Minnesota, which has the largest Scandinavian population in the country."
Outside of Norway, Minnesota is home to the largest Norwegian population in the world.