The Senate is expected this week to hold a long-awaited vote on President Obama's pick for a key State Department position, but some Republicans say instability in Ukraine is a reason to delay the tally.
Obama nominated Rose Gottemoeller to be undersecretary of State for arms control and international security last year. She has been acting in the position since 2012.
Although the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has twice approved the nomination, the issue has yet to make it to the floor of the upper chamber. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), unsatisfied with the administration's claims that it would not pursue additional reductions in U.S. nuclear arms without comparable Russian reductions, had placed a hold on her nomination.
During last Thursday's session of the Senate, however, cloture was filed regarding several pending nominations, including Gottemoeller's, according to the Senate Democrats' website. Rubio, along with Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jim Risch (R-Ind.), issued a statement on Friday blasting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for the move.
"We are extremely disappointed in Senator Reid's decision to once again subvert the rules of the Senate and schedule a vote on this controversial nominee," the statement reads. "We have repeatedly made clear to the Obama administration our concerns about Ms. Gottemoeller's role in failing to quickly pursue evidence of Russia's [non]compliance with multiple arms control agreements and her delay in making the Senate aware of these violations."
Rubio and others have urged the Obama administration to take a tough stance against Russia for suspected violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The letter did not specify the multiple accords with which Russian compliance is being questioned.
In a Saturday op-ed, Rubio suggested that Russian military involvement in a politically unstable Ukraine also represents grounds for a delay in the vote.
Arms control advocates are praising Reid for using new Senate rules adopted last year to advance Gottemoeller's nomination. Only 51 votes are required to bring cloture to end a Senate debate. However, Republicans have insisted on up to eight hours of debate on the nomination, noted John Isaacs, executive director for the Council for a Livable World.
"Senators Rubio, Cornyn and Risch would be against the nomination even if Ukraine had invaded Russia," Isaacs told Global Security Newswire on Monday. "They made it clear that they oppose the Obama administration's control policies long before Ukraine blew up and long before there were allegations about Russian potential violations of the INF Treaty."