WASHINGTON: Election year politics has held up Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominee as envoy to India.
But South Asia veteran Nancy J. Powell, who was named as the next US ambassador in New Delhi in December, is not the only one cooling her heels in Washington. Currently, 181 of Obama's nominees to various posts are awaiting confirmation.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner Wednesday could not spell out what was holding up Powell's confirmation or how many ambassadorial nominees are waiting for confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"You'll have to ask Congress. I'm not - I don't know," he said when asked what was holding up the confirmation of Powell or if the delay in her confirmation was an issue of concern to the Obama administration.
"Well, look, anytime we don't have an ambassador at post, it's always an issue of concern for us," Toner said. "We like to have our ambassadors - our nominees confirmed as quickly as possible and out to their missions, clearly."
But the administration was "confident that - or hopeful that Congress will move forward in as fast as a manner as possible to confirm all outstanding nominations," he said, "And we're going to consult with them as we move forward."
Powell had her confirmation hearing last month, but a vote on her acceptance by the Senate has been delayed due to an arcane procedure that allows any member of the upper house to put a "hold" on any nomination for public office.
Powell is a non-controversial career diplomat who has worked in New Delhi, Calcutta, Dhaka, Islamabad and Kathmandu, in the last two posts as ambassador. But Republicans, angry with Obama for allegedly giving short shrift to the Congress, have blocked all Obama appointments in the Senate.
Earlier this month Senate leaders did reach a deal that will allow confirmation of 14 of President Obama's nominees to serve on the federal bench by early May, but there is no word about the fate of other pending appointments.
If the impasse continues Powell may not be able to take charge of her post in New Delhi before the June round of the India-US Strategic Dialogue that may well be the last significant exchange between the two sides before the November presidential poll.