South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday to be the next ambassador to the United Nations.
The confirmation vote was taken just hours after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee signaled its approval of Haley, with just two Democrats voting against allowing her nomination to move forward. The same two, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, cast votes against her confirmation on the Senate floor Tuesday evening. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., also voted against her.
“As she goes into this new job she can learn the nuances of foreign policy, but diplomacy is either something you have or you don’t,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in support of Haley before the Senate vote. “She’s tough, she’s determined and I think very capable of being the United States’ voice in the United Nations.”
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations committee, said he was “extremely impressed” with Haley’s accomplishments as governor and her attitude favoring a robust U.S. role in the world.
Although Haley has no foreign policy experience, she impressed senators in her confirmation hearing last week by taking a tough stance against Russia and vowing to defend American values abroad. She was critical of President Donald Trump during the campaign, but his transition team announced her nomination to the U.N. post in November.
Haley fielded questions for over three hours last week, frequently offering more satisfying answers than had secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, particularly with regard to Russia. The former Exxon Mobil CEO refused to say that country was committing war crimes in Syria, an admission Haley made in her hearing, along with a strong rebuke of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. She was well-prepared and was better received by senators than Tillerson, who expressed dismay at multiple admissions he hadn’t yet discussed important foreign policy issues with Trump and his refusal to condemn human rights violations.
Tillerson has also been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a party-line vote, but the full Senate has not yet taken up his confirmation.
Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, is one of two minority women in a Cabinet otherwise populated largely by white men.
Haley’s approval by the Senate triggers a succession process in South Carolina for the governorship. Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster — who was the first statewide officeholder in the country to support Trump — will become governor. The vacated lieutenant governor role is typically filled by the president pro tempore of the state Senate, but South Carolina state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, doesn’t want to leave his post. He will resign so another senator can fill the Senate position temporarily and then move into the lieutenant governor’s seat, after which Leatherman is expected to seek to return to his leadership role.
Since former President Dwight Eisenhower, past administrations have differed on whether the U.N. ambassador is a formal part of the Cabinet. Former President George W. Bush did not have his ambassador in the Cabinet, but former President Barack Obama did. Haley will be a part of Trump’s Cabinet. She will move to New York to serve at U.N. headquarters.