This vote was on confirming Rhode Island native Christopher R. Hill to be the administration’s ambassador to Iraq. Hill has a long resume of foreign policy experience, including serving as the lead U.S. negotiator in multilateral talks over North Korea’s nuclear program.
Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, threatened to hold up Hill’s nomination over Brownback’s assertion that Hill failed to address human rights issues in his role as lead negotiator. Brownback also argued that Hill had misled Congress and overstepped his authority. John McCain, R-Ariz., also opposed the nomination, although he did not threaten to hold it up.
“There has been a charge that Ambassador Hill simply didn't raise the human rights issues because the Bush administration wouldn't let him do this and that you needed to look up the ladder, not at Ambassador Hill on this. I can tell my colleagues from my personal conversations with President Bush, he was deeply concerned about human rights. He loathed Kim Jong-Il because of the human rights issues more than any other. Those were his statements. I personally had two direct conversations at length with the President about this,” Brownback said. “The idea that somehow Chris Hill couldn't do this because the President and his apparatus wouldn't agree to it raises some major questions about that charge because it certainly wasn't the President who was saying anything such as that. I think that one is patently false on its face.” Brownback added that Hill has a history of playing down or ignoring human rights abuses which Brownback finds troublesome.
Jack Reed, D-R.I., said he has worked with Hill and that he is a distinguished public servant. He said he just returned from Iraq and that General Odierno and other diplomatic personnel were strongly in favor of Hill’s confirmation
“They have every confidence in him. They believe he cannot only do the job but do it extremely well. I think their support is much more compelling than the opposition I have heard on the Senate floor today,” Reed said.
Hill has spent his life in the diplomatic service, beginning with a stint in the U.S. Foreign Service in 1977 and later serving as an economic officer in embassies in Yugoslavia, Poland and Korea, and later deputy chief at the embassy in Albania, and director of the Office of South Central European Affairs. In 1996 he was named ambassador to Macedonia during a period of severe ethnic conflict.
By a vote of 73-23, the Senate voted to confirm Hill. Every Democrat present voted for his confirmation. Of Republicans present, 17 voted to confirm him and 23 voted against confirming him. The end result is that Christopher R .Hill was confirmed to be ambassador of Iraq.