Embassy nominee to face Senate questions today

Missouri lawyer Kevin O’Malley to appear at committee hearing

President’s  choice: Kevin O’Malley is a political donor and Obama supporter. Photograph: AP Photo

President’s choice: Kevin O’Malley is a political donor and Obama supporter. Photograph: AP Photo

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 01:00

President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next US ambassador to Ireland, Missouri lawyer Kevin O’Malley, will be questioned today by a Senate committee as part of the job confirmation process.

Mr O’Malley will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill at a hearing chaired by Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut.

The hearing moves Mr O’Malley closer to taking up the Dublin post and filling a role vacant for more than a year and a half, the longest period of time for Ireland to be without a US ambassador.

Other nominees

Other nominees scheduled to appear before the committee at the same time as Mr O’Malley are John Bass, Mr Obama’s choice for ambassador to Turkey; and Jane Hartley, the ambassadorial nominee for France.

James Pettit, the nominee for Moldova; and Brent Hartley, the nominee for Slovenia, will appear on a separate panel today.

The president’s choice of Mr O’Malley, a political donor and Obama supporter, surprised some in the Irish-American community as he was not a well-known figure, at least not on the east coast.

Obama’s friend

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough has described Mr O’Malley as a “close personal friend of the president” and a “leader in his field”. He told Irish reporters last month that the more people got to know the St Louis attorney, “the more impressed they will be by him”.

The Obama administration is pressing Congress to accelerate the confirmation of ambassadors.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest criticised Republicans last month for delaying the appointments process, saying that there were 48 ambassadorial nominees awaiting Senate approval and 26 eligible to be confirmed by chamber, with the average delay lasting 262 days.

“These delays are simply unacceptable,” he told reporters at a press briefing. “It’s time Republicans in the Senate ended their obstruction.”