Congress

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley expected to have smooth confirmation for UN ambassador role

Governor Nikki Haley is heading to Congress to see where her nomination to as ambassador to the United Nations in a Trump administration stands. She’s likely to hear good news. Here, she’s pictured during the 50th Annual Governor's Carolighting on Dec. 1, 2016 on the State House grounds in Columbia.
Governor Nikki Haley is heading to Congress to see where her nomination to as ambassador to the United Nations in a Trump administration stands. She’s likely to hear good news. Here, she’s pictured during the 50th Annual Governor's Carolighting on Dec. 1, 2016 on the State House grounds in Columbia. tglantz@thestate.com

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to walk the halls of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday in a charm offensive seeking support for her nomination as the next United Nations ambassador.

But, really, she need not bother. It appears highly unlikely that Haley will face much resistance in moving into one of the nation’s more influential foreign policy jobs.

While some of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees for powerful positions in his still-forming administration have created anger and dismay among Democrats, her approval looks to be as close to easy as it gets in Washington.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., is both the recent Democratic vice presidential candidate and a recognized expert on foreign policy. While walking toward the Senate chamber Wednesday, he was asked about Haley’s chances.

“The truth is there are some appointments with which I have major concerns,” Kaine said. “Nikki Haley is not one of those.”

He said he didn’t see anything standing in her way to the ambassador post, which is a Cabinet-level position.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who prides himself on decades of foreign policy work in the Senate, had a similar response when asked about potential problems facing Haley. He noted her lack of foreign policy experience.

Still, he said, he didn’t have any specific issues with the nomination, and “I plan to go into this with an open mind.”

The reality in Washington these days is that there will be some nomination battles.

Consider the reaction to the announcement Wednesday that Trump plans to nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Congress was buzzing with dissenting Democrats as soon as word broke. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., almost immediately tweeted that Pruitt “is a climate denier who’s worked closely with the fossil fuel industry. That’s sad and dangerous.”

Democrats on Wednesday were vowing to do whatever necessary to block Pruitt.

But there was no anger, or even real resistance, to Haley. And that was among Democrats.

Among Republicans, Haley appears to be respected and well liked.

Haley is expected to visit senators Thursday, after picking up the Kemp Leadership Award on Wednesday evening. The website for the Jack Kemp Foundation (named for the Republican congressman who died in 2009) says that the award is for “exceptional leadership in public policy or private enterprise in advancing the American Idea” and implies a conservative stamp of approval. Past winners include Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was rushing to vote Wednesday, but when pressed to comment on Haley’s prospects, he said: “No problems, no issues. At least none I’ve heard of.”

After news of the nomination broke, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, did a quick and informal poll of senators. “There are no red flags. No one came up with a reason this shouldn’t be confirmed,” he said.

The committee, which also includes Kaine, will hold the nomination hearing on Haley.

Corker said he’s scheduled to meet with Haley on Thursday and looks forward to the meeting. But when asked to search for a reason she might have problems, he said had to pause before saying, “Well, she’s a governor, so she’s used to being in charge of things, so maybe to some that’s a concern.”

He then grimaced and shook his head. “I really don’t think there’s any reason to worry.”

Matthew Schofield: 202-383-6066, @mattschodcnews

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