U.S. sending an ambassador to Canada — finally
More than 2 years later, U.S. sends an envoy after nominee clears bitter partisan logjam in the U.S. Senate
Canada is about to have a U.S. ambassador again. It's only taken more than two years. But a logjam broke Tuesday evening in the U.S. Senate, as David Cohen's appointment was allowed to proceed.
The Philadelphia telecom exec will head to Ottawa after the Senate agreed unanimously to approve his appointment in a voice vote.
The development came amid flared tempers between Democrats and Republicans in the chamber over the alleged systematic blocking of President Joe Biden's diplomatic appointments.
On Tuesday evening, Democrats read out a list of names they hoped to confirm by unanimous consent, including ambassadors to Israel, NATO and Canada.
In the U.S., ambassadorial nominations require approval by the Senate, and Democrat Robert Menendez criticized his opponents for slow-walking scores of nominees; he mentioned Canada as one example.
"How does [blocking] the ambassador to Canada actually advance U.S. interests? It does not. It is seriously detrimental to our national security," he said.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley then proceeded to block unanimous consent for a series of nominees, saying in some cases he was acting on his own behalf and in others on behalf of colleagues who had objections.
He said these nominations deserved a full debate and votes — like the NATO appointment, to get a better sense of how the Biden administration intends to press allies to meet military spending commitments.
Hawley criticized Democrats for going to the Glasgow climate summit instead of staying in the chamber to have full debates on nominations.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer ridiculed the idea that blocking so many nominations in any way served the American national interest.
"The consequence? Scores of empty desks in the State Department, in our embassies, in our Department of Treasury and other agencies," Schumer said.
"These nominees are not controversial. They're routinely confirmed by consent in this chamber, until a few people decided that they wanted to make a big show of this. For whatever reason. No one ever did this before."
After that exchange, Hawley kept blocking consent for nominees.
Then when Cohen's name came up something unusual happened: Nobody raised their voice to object, and the Senate recorded the new diplomat as being confirmed as heading to Ottawa.
The U.S. hasn't had an official ambassador at its Ottawa embassy since the departure of Kelly Craft in early 2019, when she was appointed by Donald Trump to represent the U.S. at the United Nations.
At his recent confirmation hearing, Cohen was asked about Canada's China strategy and he said the Biden administration looked forward to seeing one.
He arrives in Ottawa amid unresolved tensions over energy issues, with uncertainty over the Line 5 oil pipeline, and trade: Ottawa has registered deep displeasure with a Buy American-style policy on electric vehicles.