The Senate on Friday confirmed a handful of ambassadors and State Department officials, including the American ambassadors to Sweden and Norway — a move that came after Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, lifted his months-long hold on the nominations which were in place because of his objection to the Iran nuclear deal.
In the Senate any one senator can put a “hold” on a nomination, and Cruz had been blocking the speedy consideration of a number of nominations for the past seven months.
An aide to Cruz said that he decided to lift his hold Friday because "he feels that after seven months that the American people are very aware of the negative consequences of this deal."
Also contributing to the decision to lift his hold was the fact that the Senate unanimously passed Cruz's bill Friday to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. as “Liu Xiaobo Plaza,” after pro-democracy dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Liu Xiaobo.
That legislation still needs to pass the House where Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has introduced a similar bill.
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Cruz's holds on the nominations had frustrated Democrats who have been attempting to go to the floor while Cruz is on the campaign trail to confirm the nominations while he isn't in Washington D.C., but Republican senators, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have objected on his behalf.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded the decision, and pointed out that many key nominees are still awaiting confirmation in the Senate.
"These positions are vital to fostering positive relations with our allies throughout the world and maintaining the United States' role as a leader in the global community," Cardin said in a statement, "America's national security is impacted when key positions are left unfilled, particularly for reasons that have nothing to do with the qualifications of the nominees."