Jacobson is an example of the consequences of senators blocking qualified nominees — her confirmation waits over disagreement with the president’s Cuba policy
U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a longtime advocate for Senate reform, took his concerns over lack of progress on a key confirmation to the Senate floor. Udall urged the Senate to act on Roberta Jacobson’s nomination to serve as ambassador to Mexico. Although she has been called one of the most qualified nominees for the position ever, there is a Senate “hold” on Jacobson’s confirmation because of a disagreement with the Obama administration over its Cuba policy.
Jacobson has served as the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, where she helped carry out the president’s policy of re-opening diplomatic relations with Cuba — a move that Udall strongly agrees with but that is opposed by others in Congress who do not support diplomatic engagement with the Cuban government. Udall pointed out that Jacobson’s confirmation has nothing to do with diplomatic relations with Mexico, which are critical to U.S. security and the economy. She is qualified for the job and deserves to be confirmed, he said.
“Our relations with Mexico are critical, and the ambassador plays a key role on issues ranging from our economy to our national security. Those of us who live in border states understand how urgent these issues are — drug trafficking, the Central American child migrant crisis, gang violence, immigration. All of these issues touch us almost daily in a border state,” Udall said after his speech. “Frankly, it’s embarrassing that we haven’t filled this position since former Ambassador Anthony Wayne retired in July. As someone who has worked with Roberta on multiple issues, I know she is the right person for the job.”
“The holdup is yet another example of how the Senate’s customs are being twisted around over politics. A senator disagrees with the president’s decision to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, so he’s blocking the Senate from confirming the president’s ambassador to Mexico. The majority leader could move her nomination forward if he wanted to. He doesn’t have to honor the hold, and I’m calling his bluff,” Udall said. “I have no problem with a senator voicing his or her objection to a policy or a nominee based on the merits. But holding up nominees to make a point just hurts the American people — it means important jobs don’t get done.”
In his speech, Udall added that Jacobson is only one example of the consequences of the Senate’s failure to act on nominations. There is a growing backlog of nominees waiting for confirmation, including 19 judges, 12 ambassadors, and the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes.
“We are on track for the lowest number of confirmations in three decades. We now have 30 judicial districts with emergency levels of backlogs. At the beginning of the year, we had 12. Thousands of people wait for their day in court because there is no judge to hear the case,” Udall said in his remarks. “When we fail to give these nominees a vote — up or down — our government fails too. This is not just the president’s team, this is our team — this is America’s team, working on trade and security, moving our economy, seeing that justice is done. These vital posts should not go unfilled.”
Udall has championed reforming the Senate rules since he was elected to the Senate in 2009. Progress has been made — the Senate did away with “secret holds” that allowed one senator to block a vote in secret. The Senate also can no longer filibuster a nomination for cabinet or judicial appointments, except those to the U.S. Supreme Court. Udall continues to push for reforms, including a “talking filibuster,” which would require senators to voice their objection on the Senate floor.