The US Senate has confirmed two Republicans known for their criticism of former President Donald Trump to new diplomatic roles.
In a voice vote that took just minutes on Oct. 25, the Senate approved a wave of President Joe Biden appointees. The Republicans have, for the most part, required nominees to go through a much lengthier confirmation process.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake was approved to serve as the ambassador to Turkey.
Flake has a contentious history with Trump. In 2019, Flake told NPR, “I hope [Trump] is defeated in the next election. But we also have to defeat Trumpism.”
He told The Washington Post in 2020, “I just couldn’t support [Trump] long before he started to run. The birtherism thing was just too much for me. And then it piled on.”
He also said that young people “who’ve grown up around minorities” would not want to be a part of the Republican Party if Trump was reelected.
Flake served six terms in the House and then six years in the Senate. He chaired the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology & the Law as well as the Africa Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Arizona Senator John McCain, was confirmed as the ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.
McCain endorsed Biden in September 2020, citing his commitment to military members and their families. Arizona was considered a key swing state at the time of her announcement.
“I decided to take a stand, and hopefully other people will see the same thing. Other women particularly,” McCain said to AP News in a phone interview. “You may have to step out of your comfort zone a little bit, but Biden is by far the best candidate in the race.”
In response, Trump tweeted, “I hardly know Cindy McCain other than having put her on a Committee at her husband’s request.”
“Joe Biden was John McCain’s lapdog. So many BAD decisions on Endless Wars & the V.A., which I brought from a horror show to HIGH APPROVAL. Never a fan of John. Cindy can have Sleepy Joe!,” he wrote.
In addition to Flake and McCain, “the Senate also voted to confirm former Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico to serve as ambassador to New Zealand and Victoria Reggie Kennedy of Massachusetts, the widow of former Sen. Ted Kennedy, to serve as ambassador to Austria.”
There are a still a number of vacancies remaining among the Biden administration’s diplomatic corps.
“There are dozens of countries where there is no confirmed American ambassador, and I hope that this moment of progress will be a predictor of other progress to come soon,” said Senator Chris Coons (D-DE).
President Biden was slow to nominate possible diplomats, “leading to early frustrations among some career State Department officials and big-time Democratic donors,” per CNN.
Biden had only made 11 nominations and had 80 positions to fill by the third month of his term – a far slower pace than his predecessors.
As of October of 2021, there were over 35 vacant diplomat positions.