hill holdup

Ron Wyden continues hold on U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia

The delay in Michael Ratney's confirmation underscores the Biden administration's challenges in filling ambassadorial roles

AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images

US Consul General of Jerusalem Michael Ratney speaks at the American consulate in Jerusalem on June 4, 2015 during a reception ahead of the 4th of July American Independence day celebrations.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told Jewish Insider yesterday that he is still in discussions with the Biden administration over the nomination of Michael Ratney to be U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Wyden has placed a procedural hold on Ratney’s confirmation vote seeking guarantees that Ratney and the administration will address the alleged killing of an Oregon resident by a Saudi national, whom the Saudi government reportedly helped leave the U.S.

Pressed on whether having an ambassador in place would help the U.S. address such issues, Wyden said, “The people that I’m honored to represent, have seen, for example, not far from my house, a foreign national be charged with manslaughter and a young woman died, and all the evidence suggests that the Saudis helped him evade justice. So we’re going to get her justice.”

During the campaign and in the early months of the Biden administration, Biden officials sought to draw a contrast with the State Department policies of the Trump administration. On the campaign trail, Biden pledged to put American diplomacy in the “hands of genuine professionals.” But efforts to dispatch diplomats to key allies have been hampered in part by the Biden administration’s slow pace in nominating individuals and a Senate backlog.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India are among more than a dozen countries that are still without an ambassador in place.

In December 2021 — when less than 20% of the administration’s ambassadorial nominees had been confirmed — Blinken issued a plea to members of the Senate to speed up the rate of confirmations. “For the sake of our national security, the Senate must act,” Blinken said at the time.

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