Who is On the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Questioning Burns and Emanuel?
The committee is chaired by Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who ripped President Biden’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.,
Here are the key figures Burns and Emanuel face on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during a Senate hearing in September. Credit…Pool photo by Kevin Dietsch
By Glenn Thrush
Oct. 20, 2021, 10:37 a.m. ET
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which on Wednesday considers some high-profile diplomatic nominations, has often been a decorous debating society, but Rahm Emanuel and R. Nicholas Burns, President Biden’s picks for ambassadorial posts in Japan and China might be facing a wilder ride.
The collision of events — escalating tensions with China and global supply chain interruptions — will likely dominate the questioning of Mr. Burns, who has served as a diplomat under presidents of both parties.
Mr. Emanuel, the combative former Chicago mayor, will face the panel on the seventh anniversary of the killing of a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white city police officer.
The committee is chaired by Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who ripped Mr. Biden’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. While Mr. Menendez is likely to back both nominees, he is also less inclined to play the human-shield role adopted by other committee chairs in defense of the president’s nominees.
The ranking Republican on the committee, Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, gets along well with Mr. Menendez and has been working on legislation to stiffen the U.S. response to a range of actions by Beijing, focused on strengthening regional military coordination and a more aggressive approach to intellectual property theft.
Mr. Risch has not said how he will vote on either nominee, but he has said his meetings with both have been cordial — and other Republicans on the committee, including Senator Bill Hagerty, Republican of Tennessee, have signaled possible support for Mr. Emanuel.
Mr. Burns is likely to face more intense policy questioning, but is almost certain to garner more support on the Republican side, having known some committee members for decades, including Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who served with him under President George W. Bush.
The fireworks are likely to come from two former 2016 Republican presidential candidates — Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has slammed Mr. Biden’s team as dangerously weak on foreign affairs, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is likely to come hard after both nominees. Mr. Emanuel, who is known for an aggressive and sometimes abrasive style, has been coached to engage in the least confrontational way possible, according to a person involved in his preparations
But the most difficult moments for Mr. Emanuel might not come from Republicans.
Several of the Democrats on the panel, particularly Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, one of the most outspoken members of his party on the issue of police violence, are likely to press him for a more detailed explanation of actions in the wake of the murder of Mr. McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014.
Jonathan Eric Kaplan, the nominee to be ambassador to Singapore, is also set to appear before the Senate panel on Wednesday.