Myth v. Fact: State Department Nominations

Myth v. Fact: State Department Nominations


Myth: Senate Democrats are actively blocking more than 60 State Department nominees.

Fact: To start, the State Department’s numbers are incorrect. There are currently 56 foreign affairs-related nominations before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate, not more than 60 as Secretary Pompeo and others at State have repeatedly claimed. Of the 56, 17 are waiting for action on the Senate Floor, having been favorably been voted out of SFRC.  Mitch McConnell controls the Senate floor and decides when those nominees get confirmed. Additionally, the Committee is currently processing 39 other nominees, both career officials and political nominations. Twenty four of those have already had a committee hearing or have one scheduled. Often, nominees are not put on a hearing panel because Committee Republicans, who set the schedule, refuse to move a nominee forward.  Of the 24 nominees referred to the Committee in the past six weeks, only five have completed their standard vetting paperwork. The Committee cannot process the remaining 19 nominees until they complete this paperwork.

Myth: Senate Democrats are to blame for vacancies in the State Department and the ambassadorial posts abroad.

Fact: The Trump Administration has been historically deficient in sending qualified nominees to the Senate. When Secretary Tillerson was fired, 418 days after Trump took office, 8 of the top 10 posts at State were vacant, either because staff had left, were fired, or the Administration had never filled those posts. Since January 2017, Senate Democrats have worked diligently with Senate Republicans to advance 131 nominees to the Senate floor. Of those, 107 have been confirmed. The Committee has processed a number of qualified nominees like Ambassador David Hale, Undersecretary for Political Affairs, in under a month. But we cannot confirm nominees who have not been nominated.

  • Even now, after almost 22 months, the Trump Administration has failed to nominate anyone for 49 State Department leadership and ambassadorial posts, including 2 Undersecretary positions, and ambassadors to critical countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Pakistan, Egypt, and Singapore.
  • In the State Department’s South Central Asia Bureau - responsible for such critical relationships as India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the administration’s own South Asia Strategy there are NO appointed Deputy Assistant Secretaries of State, none of whom require Senate confirmation. All four of these officials are in a disadvantaged “acting” capacity. The Secretary does not need the Senate to confirm these appointments. He can name permanent Deputy Assistant Secretaries right now. Today. He has not.

Myth: The State Department nominees before the Senate are qualified nominees.

Fact: A shocking number of Trump Administration political nominees have serious problems:


  • One nominee failed to disclose to the Senate accusations against him involving sexual harassment.
  • Multiple nominees failed to disclose to the Senate financial entanglements that could create conflicts of interest.
  • Other nominees have failed to disclose involvements in lawsuits or federal investigations.
  • One nominee failed to disclose to the Senate his connection to a pay-to-play scheme investigated by the FBI. 
  • One ambassadorial nominee was subject to a temporary restraining order for threatening behavior.
  • A slew of nominees have a track records of deeply offensive public statements, unbefitting of an official representative of the United States, including derisive comments about current sitting U.S. Senators, extremist views on immigrants, and demeaning comments about women.
  • Given red flags raised by both Congressional Democrats and Republicans, the Trump Administration has withdrawn ten nominees before they could even be voted on by the full Senate.

Myth: There is no State Department Undersecretary for Management because of Democratic obstruction.

Fact: After removing the prior Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy, a career Foreign Service Officer who knew the Department well, the Trump Administration failed to nominate a replacement for 142 days. The President then nominated a candidate with zero experience managing a large organization, whose nomination languished for a year because Republicans and Democrats in Congress did not believe he was fit to move forward through the process before the Administration acknowledged that he was not the right person for the job. 509 days after Pat Kennedy was fired, the White House finally submitted a second nominee to the Senate. The Committee is currently reviewing his nomination. 

Myth: Only Democrats have opposed Trump Administration nominees

Fact: Republicans have found some of the Trump Administration’s nominees equally troubling and objectionable, and some have languished both in Committee and on the Senate Floor due to bipartisan opposition.

  • For example, two Republican Senators publicly opposed the nomination of Ronald Mortensen to be Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration due to his “lack of empathy” for people fleeing oppression and extremist views on immigration.
  • Republicans have held up several career Foreign Service Officer nominations. These are career officials at the State Department who have served their country across multiple administrations.

Myth: Senate Democrats are holding up qualified career nominees

Fact: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has advanced more than 40 career nominations during the Trump Administration, as well as more than 1,550 Foreign Service Officers. While Senate Democrats do not control the Committee or floor schedule, career nominations have been processed in as few as 11 days.  SFRC has processed career nominees in a median time of approximately six weeks.

Myth: State Department acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Heather Nauert said recently: “The majority of those [60 pending] nominees are Foreign Service Officers, who bring instrumental skills and decades-long experience to critical posts around the globe, places like Bangladesh, Kenya, Mozambique, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and many others – missions critical to advancing our U.S. leadership and our foreign policy priorities.”

Fact: This statement contains multiple errors.

  • The Committee advanced the nominees for Bangladesh and Uzbekistan nearly a month ago, and they are now waiting for Senator McConnell to get them to the finish line. 
  • Committee Democrats worked to advance the Mozambique nomination, from file completion to hearing, in a near-record 9 days.
  • The nominee for Yemen has not yet completed the required paperwork.
  • The nominee for Kenya is not a Foreign Service Officer; rather a political appointee who has publicly advocated for the imprisonment of Donald Trump’s political opponents.

Press Contact

Juan Pachon (Menendez) 202-224-4651