Published in January 20, 2007 Armenian Reporter
Nominee for Armenia Ambassador Faces Another Hold in Senate
By Emil Sanamyan (Special to the Armenian Reporter)
(Sen. Menendez on the left and Amb. Hoagland on the right.)
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has placed a new hold on the nomination of Richard Hoagland as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. The full Senate will not be able to consider the candidacy unless the hold is lifted.
No imminent Senate action was pending as of January 17, 2007, however. The reason, according to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer familiar with the process, is that Hoagland’s nomination has not yet been formally submitted to the Senate. According to the staffer, it normally takes some time between a White House announcement and the actual submission of a candidacy.
Hoagland was first nominated last year to replace Ambassador John Evans, who ended his term early, in September of 2006. Evans formally left the State Department late last year and has since confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that his remarks affirming the Armenian Genocide made in February 2005 caused displeasure at the State Department, resulting in his early departure.
During hearings on the nomination held last summer, Hoagland appeared to question the validity of the Genocide, but his comments were later withdrawn by the State Department. Sen. Menendez said in his January 11 statement that “given the circumstances and controversy surrounding Mr. Hoagland's nomination, I believe that the best way to move forward would be for the President to nominate a new candidate for this ambassadorship.”
Last month, Menendez and then-incoming Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to withdraw Hoagland and nominate another candidate. But last week, the Bush Administration said it would re-nominate Hoagland.
According to a January 11 article in The Hill newspaper, which monitors congressional developments, Hoagland is among at least eight Administration nominees, whose candidacies were held up in the Senate last year, but would be re-nominated by President Bush.
Asked about Senate concerns regarding the nomination, a State Department official told this writer that it is within the purview of the White House to nominate whomever it wishes, but it is up to the Senate to grant approval.
A spokesperson for the White House told the Armenian Reporter that “Ambassador Hoagland is a talented diplomat who possesses the expertise and experience necessary to serve in this important position. The President is encouraging the Senate to confirm Ambassador Hoagland as soon as possible.” The White House would not speculate on whether the President would appoint Amb. Hoagland during the Senate recess to side-step the confirmation process, however.
Sen. Menendez stressed in his statement that “if there is any sincerity behind the Bush administration’s rhetoric about ‘liberty on the march’ – if ‘never again’ is to be more than a bumper sticker slogan – then American diplomacy should consist of nothing less than unvarnished honesty with our friends and enemies alike. And we must call genocide by its name.”
In addition to the hold, the Hoagland nomination would have to face another vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Sen. Menendez is now a member. With Democrats in control, the Committee is now chaired by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), a supporter of Genocide affirmation who nevertheless joined the majority in a 13 to 5 vote to advance the Hoagland candidacy to the full Senate last September.
A former Senate staff member familiar with Foreign Relations Committee procedures told this writer that the Committee chair has great discretion as to what is going to happen with the nomination next. Sen. Biden could theoretically delay the consideration indefinitely, as was the case with the failed nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Alternatively, the former Senate staffer said, Sen. Biden could either proceed directly to a new vote or schedule a new hearing on the nominee.