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Senate vote on Rahm Emanuel nomination to be U.S. ambassador to Japan expected by end of the year

“I offered to help him in any way that I can,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told the Chicago Sun-Times of her efforts to round up GOP confirmation votes for him.

Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago and former chief of staff in the Obama White House, testifies during a confirmation hearing Oct. 20.
Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago and former chief of staff in the Obama White House, testifies during a confirmation hearing Oct. 20.
Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo

WASHINGTON — With three GOP senators blocking confirmation votes for dozens of Biden appointees, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is poised to get a vote and be confirmed to be the U.S. ambassador to Japan by the end of the year, boosted with a strong network of Republican Senate backers, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Emanuel has bipartisan support for his confirmation and his nomination advanced to the full Senate after he sailed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Nov. 3. His Senate vote is stalled for reasons having nothing to do with him.

“Rahm and I are good friends. I got to know him very well in the Obama administration. And when he told me he was going to be nominated to be the ambassador to Japan, I offered to help him in any way that I can,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told the Sun-Times.

Emanuel’s strong ties with many GOP senators across their ideological spectrum comes from his serving with many of them while he was in the House and from his time as former President Barack Obama’s first chief of staff.

Besides Collins, a moderate, Emanuel’s GOP network helping him build support on their side of the aisle includes Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn.

Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Missouri, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have blocked the confirmation of dozens of State Department and other nominees. Cruz has thrown up a blockade around almost all ambassadors, including Emanuel over an unrelated issue.

Cruz is holding ambassador confirmation votes hostage to try to force the Biden administration to prevent Russia from completing the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

A senatorial “hold” can delay but not always deny a vote. The reason so many nominees are in limbo is that in order to work around a hold, a complicated time-consuming Senate process must take place.

Since the Senate is not built for speed, given the crush of other matters, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has a limited amount of time slots he can, for practical matters, devote to getting around a hold.

It seems likely, I am told, that Emanuel and Biden’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, will get two of the coveted slots this month.

So far, only two Democrats, Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, oppose Emanuel. Merkley objected for reasons stemming from a Chicago police officer shooting of a Black teen, Laquan McDonald, when Emanuel was mayor.

Schumer will be able to expedite confirmation votes for Emanuel and Burns because of the importance of Japan and China and because they both have bipartisan support.

Emanuel “will definitely lose some (votes) on the far right” as well as “on the far left. But I think he will be fine,” Collins said.

Emanuel has been working the Senate precincts for months. Collins said, “We keep in touch a couple of times a week, probably a little more than that if you count text messages.”

After Emanuel and Burns were nominated, Collins tweeted that they were good choices and “that’s unusual for me. I do not usually comment on a nominee before the hearing is held, unless the person’s from Maine or as in this case, I knew both of them well, and I knew that they would do they would serve our country ably.”

Said Collins, “I believe the votes are there to confirm both of those important nominees, and that’s what I’ve been working on.”