U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s Iowa victory solidifies his standing as a leading presidential contender: He’s just not behaving like it in Congress.
Cruz has blocked a full Senate vote on nominees for U.S. ambassador to Norway and Sweden because of unrelated foreign policy issues. If the Texas senator wants to look a little more presidential, he should immediately drop his opposition to an up-or-down vote on the nominees.
The Scandinavian nations are staunch allies that need and deserve a U.S. ambassador. But it’s been more than 800 days since one has served in Norway and more than 400 for Sweden. That’s ridiculous, especially when acceptable — indeed, laudable — candidates already have cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee controlled by Cruz’s GOP colleagues.
One of these nominees, Samuel Heins, is a Minnesotan slated to become ambassador to Norway. “He has so many good qualities,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar told an editorial writer last May when Heins was nominated. Klobuchar and many others particularly point to Heins’ work on human rights, including his instrumental role in establishing the Minnesota-based Center for Victims of Torture and the Advocates for Human Rights. He’s a great candidate in his own right, and much better than President Obama’s initial pick, George Tsunis, who lost support after his incompetent confirmation hearing testimony.
(Obama’s uncontroversial choice for Sweden is Azita Raji, a former Wall Street executive.)
It’s disappointing that Cruz doesn’t seem to realize the importance of these posts or, apparently, diplomacy in general.
The multiple global crises the next president will face will require assembling multinational coalitions to apply diplomatic, economic and, as a last measure, military means to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives. Blocking diplomatic nominees sends all of the wrong signals.
A Cruz staffer told the Star Tribune that among the reasons the senator is blocking the nominations are concerns over the Iran nuclear deal and a disagreement with the White House over renaming a Washington, D.C., street after a prominent Chinese dissident. Cruz’s disagreement regarding Iran is a legitimate political issue shared by many of his fellow senators. But it has nothing to do with naming ambassadors to Norway and Sweden.
And Cruz was wrong to imply in a Tuesday news release that human rights were “off the table” with China. To the contrary, they are a constant source of tension between Beijing and Washington and have been stressed on a bipartisan basis. But there is no evidence that renaming the street will advance efforts. Instead the gesture could be counterproductive — not just on human rights, but on security issues at a time of rising regional tension.
Cruz should end the Washington games he decries on the campaign trail and allow a vote on these fine nominees.