U.S. senator: ‘Unlikely’ Cuba ambassador will be approved this year
September 29, 2016
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, which oversees the confirmation of foreign service nominees,
said on Wednesday it was “highly unlikely” that an ambassador to Cuba
would be approved this year.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated career diplomat Jeffrey
DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than five
“The committee was notified of the nomination yesterday but has not yet
received the appropriate paperwork to begin its work,” Republican
Senator Bob Corker said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “However, it
is highly unlikely that an ambassador to Cuba would be approved in the
The appointment of DeLaurentis, the top American official at the U.S.
embassy in Havana, marked Obama’s latest move to go as far as he can in
normalizing ties between the former Cold War foes before he leaves
office in January.
But the nomination must be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate,
which is seen as a long shot.
Corker’s committee would have to hold a confirmation hearing for
DeLaurentis and vote to approve his nomination before it would go to the
full Senate, where it could be blocked by any senator.
Many lawmakers have warmly embraced Obama’s moves toward more normal
relations with Cuba, which became public in a shock announcement in
December 2014. But several strongly oppose his efforts, arguing that
Cuba must do far more to improve human rights before it can deal
normally with the United States.
Cuban-American senators such as Republicans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and
Democrat Robert Menendez are particularly opposed to Obama’s policy.
Rubio and Menendez are both members of the foreign relations panel.
Congress’ “lame-duck” session takes place in November and December,
after the elections on Nov. 8 and before the new Congress comes to
Washington in January.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)
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