Dozens confirmed to US ambassador posts overnight

Rahm Emanuel, former Mayor of Chicago and former chief of staff in the Obama White House, was confirmed as the US ambassador to Japan.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) -- The US Senate overnight confirmed more than three dozen of President Joe Biden's nominees to ambassador posts, ending a months-long Republican-led blockade on quick consideration of the diplomatic nominations.

Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama, was confirmed early Saturday as the US ambassador to Japan. The vote was 48-21, with 31 senators not voting.

Progressive Democrats had objected to Emanuel's nomination, citing his record as Chicago mayor, specifically his handling of the 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Three Democratic senators -- Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley -- voted against Emanuel's confirmation.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz had for months refused to allow quick confirmation on diplomatic nominations to protest the Biden administration's policy on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Cruz wants the administration to toughen its policy on the major pipeline that will deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, arguing that the pipeline would strengthen Russia and make Germany beholden to the country. Some Republican senators, however, had expressed concern that the hold up on the nominations would impact America's diplomacy and influence around the world.

Early Saturday morning, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, announced a deal that Cruz's legislation imposing sanctions would be debated and voted on by mid-January.

Emanuel and others' confirmation votes were part of a flurry of activity in the Senate in the early hours of Saturday morning before lawmakers adjourned for recess.

The Senate confirmed several nominees to other key posts in Asia and Africa, including Marc Evans Knapper as the ambassador to Vietnam; Larry Edward André Jr. as the ambassador to Somalia; Steven C. Bondy as the ambassador to Bahrain; and Christopher John Lamora as the ambassador to Cameroon.

Mark Gitenstein, a close friend to Biden who served as chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden chaired the panel, was confirmed as the ambassador to the European Union.

Massachusetts state Rep. Claire Cronin was confirmed as the ambassador to Ireland, and former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell as the ambassador to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón, who most recently served as first lady Jill Biden's chief of staff in the East Wing, was confirmed as the ambassador to Spain.

The Senate also confirmed Mary Katherine Dimke to be US District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington. Gabriel P. Sanchez, a nominee to be US Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, and Holly A. Thomas, a nominee to be a US Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, had their nominations advanced.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the status of Gabriel Sanchez' and Holly Thomas' nominations. They have not yet been voted on.

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