New US envoy faces more opposition

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The man nominated to be the new US ambassador to Norway still faces dissent within the US Senate, even though his nomination was approved Tuesday, as expected, by the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. George James Tsunis’ nomination is now up for a final vote by the full senate, however, and one prominent member has cautioned that Tsunis might “embarrass the United States of America.”

It remains unclear when, or even if, Tsunis will arrive in Oslo. Newspaper Newsday on Long Island, New York, where Tsunis lives, reported that he faced more scathing criticism from the Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, where it was pointed out that Tsunis already had become a “mockery” in Norway.

There was so much dissent around Tsunis’ nomination that it also was put up for a roll-call vote, while most other ambassador nominees were approved by the committee on a simpler voice vote.

Newsday reported that US Senator John McCain, whom Tsunis once supported both politically and financially, complained how Tsunis had made several blunders during his senate confirmation hearing in January. McCain, whose Republican Party lost Tsunis’ support when Tsunis later switched to the Democratic party, stressed how Tsunis erred in referring to Norway’s form of government and which parties make it up.

Tsunis, who ended up financially supporting US President Barack Obama’s re-election bid and later won the now-disputed ambassador nomination from Obama, also offended Norway’s Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) by referring to it as a “fringe element” that “spreads hatred.” The party quickly demanded an apology, which it reportedly received from staff at the US Embassy in Oslo.

“The question is whether (Tsunis) will embarrass the United States of America while serving as our representative,” McCain told the committee.  As a former presidential candidate for the Republican Party, he may be able to sway other senators to vote against Tsunis when his nomination comes up for a final vote.

Newsday reported that Tsunis declined to comment on McCain’s criticism, or the relatively unusual committee vote that was taken on his nomination. The Foreign Relations Committee ended up voting 12-6 in favour of Obama’s nomination of Tsunis, after several Democrats defended Tsunis.

The full US Senate’s final vote on Tsunis’ nomination has not yet been scheduled.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund