WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz will still hold all State Department nominations despite the fact that it could further delay the U.S. posting an ambassador to Russia, his office said on Friday.
“Yes he still has a hold on noms and wants answers to his basic questions,” Cruz spokesperson Catherine Frazier said.
Cruz said earlier this week that he would hold all State Department nominations that are set to come before the Senate until he has answers about the Federal Aviation Administration’s ban on U.S. carriers flying to Tel Aviv in the midst of the Gaza war, a ban that has since been lifted. Cruz accused the Obama administration of using the flight ban as a way to punish Israel: “The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign policy demands,” he said on Wednesday. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf called the accusation “ridiculous and offensive.”
One of the nominations that could be affected by Cruz’s hold is that of John Tefft, President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Russia. He is scheduled to have his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations committee on Tuesday.
The U.S. has not had a permanent ambassador in Russia since February, when former ambassador Michael McFaul resigned. Meanwhile, tensions with Russia have begun to boil over as the crisis in Ukraine continues.
“There will be no delay if the administration will simply answer those basic questions,” Frazier said when asked if Cruz had any qualms about holding up this particular nomination in the midst of a geopolitical crisis with Russia.
Tefft is a career foreign service officer who formerly served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and Georgia. His nomination is expected to go through with little controversy — if Cruz’s hold doesn’t delay it.
As of Friday morning, the FAA flight ban could be reinstated, U.S. officials told CNN.
State Department representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.