WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.),
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following
opening remarks at this morning’s Full Committee hearing to consider the
nominations of the Honorable Kenneth Lee Salazar to be Ambassador to the United
Mexican States; Ms. Jessica Lewis to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Political-Military
Affairs); the Honorable Donald Lu to be Assistant Secretary of State for South
and Central Asian Affairs; and the Honorable Marcela Escobari to be an
Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International
Development (Latin America and the Caribbean).
a copy of Chairman Menendez’s remarks as delivered below.
are here today to consider nominations for four very important positions:
Secretary, former Senator, Kenneth Salazar to be Ambassador to Mexico, Ms.
Jessica Lewis to be Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military
Affairs, Ambassador Donald Lu to be Assistant Secretary of State for South and
Central Asian Affairs, and Ms. Marcela Escobari to be an Assistant
Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development for
Latin America and the Caribbean.
on all your nominations. I know all of you have a distinguished history of
public service. We appreciate your willingness to continue to serve your
country and those members of your families.
understand that Senator Bennet and Senator Hickenlooper, our colleagues from
Colorado, will be introducing Secretary Salazar this morning. So we will go to
Senator from Colorado, Senator Bennet?
you. When I’m up for nomination I want you introducing me, Senator Bennet.
you, Senator Hickenlooper. I didn’t think there was much that could be added
after Senator Bennet but you did a fantastic job of filling out the total
picture. We know that both you have very busy agendas and you are welcome to
excuse yourselves at any time.
that, let me take a moment to introduce Ms. Jessica Lewis.
is with a mixture of deep pride and wistfulness that we are here today
considering the nomination of Ms. Lewis to be the next Assistant Secretary of
State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. I, like many others in both
the Senate and the House, have had the good fortune of working closely with Ms.
Lewis and benefitting from her exceptional wisdom, drive, and judgment.
Lewis is recognized across party lines as one of the most effective and
respected leaders on Capitol Hill, and she is a trailblazer for women in
national security. Indeed, if approved by the Senate, she will be the first
woman confirmed to hold this position.
all know her as the Majority staff director of this Committee and, prior to
that, as the senior national security and foreign policy advisor for
then-Majority Leader Harry Reid.
you may not know is that she came to Capitol Hill almost two decades ago to
work for me as a foreign policy advisor and Staff Director of the Western
Hemisphere Subcommittee in the House of Representatives. So we are proud of all
of Jessica’s accomplishments since then.
it would be impossible to catalogue all of these accomplishments here, I do
want to highlight her leadership, her steady hand during this past year in
particular, leading the staff to an incredibly productive year, while also
providing invaluable advice on the Committee’s foreign policy priorities. I
have been deeply impressed, and that’s not an easy thing to do, but not at all
like to highlight Ms. Lewis’ tireless dedication over her entire career to
mentoring young professionals as well, elevating her colleagues, and empowering
those who have not been traditionally represented in the field, are exemplary.
I have no doubt she will apply herself in the same way and with equal success
at the State Department.
Salazar is a friend of mine and of this Committee, and I am deeply gratified by
your nomination to be Ambassador to Mexico. It is a testament to the Biden
administration’s seriousness about restoring a productive and respectful
relationship with the people and government of Mexico, one of the most
important and expansive bilateral relationships we have.
task ahead of you is great. You will need to continue engaging on the critical
issues of trade and migration that have been central in our bilateral
relationship while also engaging on the often uncomfortable issues that face
both our nations, including the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and people;
environmental threats; and issues of democracy, governance, and rule of law,
including with respect to human rights and labor
have no doubt that your vast experience in government, your personal ties to
Mexico, and your commitment to bipartisan solutions will make you an excellent
Ambassador upon your confirmation.
Office of Political-Military Affairs for which Ms. Lewis has been nomination,
is of vital importance to U.S. foreign and national security policy, and to
this Committee. It is a position with immense impact for safeguarding U.S.
national security and promoting and accomplishing vital U.S. foreign policy
recent years, the Bureau’s relationship and credibility with this Committee has
been strained, though it has been improving. I expect that with Ms. Lewis at
the helm, the Bureau’s level of cooperation with the oversight activities of
and consultation with this Committee will improve considerably, and I will put
that expectation to the test.
Lu, I’m pleased to see you back again before this Committee, this time to be
the next Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, a region of
critical importance and significant challenges.
the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan will require sustained
Senate oversight for how the Administration plans to mitigate the effects of
the withdrawal. I, along with many members of this Committee, are especially
concerned about the plight of women and minorities as the Taliban continues to
gain military strength.
addition, as the Administration evacuates the first group of Afghan SIV
applicants, I continue to be concerned about the thousands of remaining Afghan
SIV applicants and our Afghan human rights and democracy partners whose lives
remain in grave danger from the Taliban. And, as you know, any peaceful
resolution to the conflict must be regional in nature and will require the
Assistant Secretary to be deeply engaged.
relationship with India is growing, bolstered by a vibrant Indian-American
community here in the United States. I expect our diplomats to deepen this
relationship while remaining true to our core values and raising concerns as
necessary. In Bangladesh, I continue to advocate for labor rights and the
establishment of unions to ensure that workers in every sector can work in safe
there will be no shortage of challenges, I am confident that your knowledge and
experience in the region will serve you well as you take on this role.
Escobari, your extensive experience helping countries in our hemisphere chart a
path towards prosperity—including in your previous service as USAID Assistant
Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Bureau—make you exceptionally
qualified for this position.
you know, the challenges we face in the region are growing by the day.
Democratic backsliding has accelerated in many countries, aggravated by the
ongoing socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.
the recent assassination in Haiti, widespread protests and regime violence in Cuba,
an authoritarian crackdown in Nicaragua, a humanitarian emergency in Venezuela,
and numerous challenges related to irregular migration, the Western Hemisphere
today is less secure, less prosperous, and less stable than it has been in many
look forward to hearing how you will work to address these challenges if
closing, the four of you have immense challenges ahead. I am confident that
your rich experiences will serve you well as you take on your new
responsibilities upon confirmation. I look forward to your testimonies. This is
normally a little longer than we would take in introducing nominees but you are
coming into critical positions.
me turn to the distinguished Ranking Member for his opening remarks.”