The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday approved President Obama’s nominations of two veteran State Department officials to serve in more-senior nuclear arms-control positions, the Hill newspaper reported.
Current acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security Rose Gottemoeller has been nominated to formally occupy that position. Prior to provisionally stepping into the role in February 2012 that was formerly held by Ellen Tauscher, Gottemoeller served as assistant secretary of State for arms control, verification and compliance and as the lead U.S. negotiator in New START talks with Russia. If approved by the full Senate, Gottemoeller would oversee three offices inside the State Department — the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation and the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Space and Defense Policy Frank Rose has been nominated to fill Gottemoeller’s vacated role heading up treaty verification and compliance efforts at Foggy Bottom. In his current role, Rose has been very involved in missile defense cooperation talks with foreign allies and security partners. He is a former staffer of both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Though their nominations were cleared by the Foreign Relations Committee it is not clear that they will so easily be approved by the Senate, according to The Hill. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has promised to block all White House nominees until certain questions are answered about the 2012 terror attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
The Foreign Relations panel on Thursday also examined the U.S. government’s response to the Syrian civil war, which multiple Republican senators strongly criticized.
U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told the committee the United States has performed admirably in its support of the Syrian opposition. The envoy said he does not believe Syrian President Bashar Assad will win the war, a contention that Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) pushed back sharply against.
“The fact is that he was about to be toppled a year ago, or over a year ago. Then Hezbollah came in. The Russians stepped up their effort. Then the Iranian Revolutionary Guard intervened,” McCain said. “And he continues to maintain his position of power and slaughtering innocent Syrian civilians.”
Ford touted the agreement reached with Damascus on the destruction of its chemical weapons as one of the most important victories to come out of the Syrian war.
“We think that the destruction of the regime’s chemical weapons is a huge success if in fact it is carried out fully,” he said. “That was a core U.S. national security interest.”
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The House on Tuesday voted 403-12 "to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States. It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities, in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with."
"Leaders of the Republican Party have begun internal deliberations over making fundamental changes to the way its presidential nominees are chosen, a recognition that the chaotic process that played out this year is seriously flawed and helped exacerbate tensions within the party." Among the possible changes: forbidding independent voters to cast ballots in Republican primaries, and "doubling the number of early states to eight."
Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."
"Speaker Paul Ryan is changing the rules of how the House will consider spending measures to try to prevent Democrats from offering surprise amendments that have recently put the GOP on defense. ... Ryan announced at a House GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning that members will now have to submit their amendments ahead of time so that they are pre-printed in the Congressional Record, according to leadership aides." The change will take effect after the Memorial Day recess.
Bernie Sanders "signed a letter Tuesday morning requesting a full and complete check and recanvass of the election results in Kentucky ... where he trails Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote. The Sanders campaign said it has asked the Kentucky secretary of state to have election officials review electronic voting machines and absentee ballots from last week's primary in each of the state's 120 counties.