U.S. State Department official Roberta Jacobson, who led negotiations on normalization of ties with Cuba, was approved as the new American ambassador to Mexico on Tuesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
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Jacobson, currently the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, was approved by a vote of 12-7.
Her nomination had been delayed by some senators who oppose President Barack Obama’s moves toward normalization of relations with Cuba.
Senator Robert Menendez, who disagrees with the Obama administration’s Cuba policy, was the only Democratic committee member who voted against Jacobson. He read a statement before the vote expressing his concerns about a range of issues, including human rights.
Senator Marco Rubio, a candidate for his party’s 2016 presidential nomination, was one of the six Republicans who voted against Jacobson. He had raised a variety of questions, including whether the State Department had pressed hard enough for the extradition of drug boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who escaped in July from a Mexican prison.
The Foreign Relations panel also approved several other nominations, including Obama’s nomination of Thomas Shannon, currently the State Department counselor, to be an undersecretary of state for political affairs.
Jacobson must be approved in the full 100-member Senate before she can take up her position in Mexico City.
Spokesmen for the Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on when those votes might take place.
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(This version of the story adds that vote has not been scheduled, Shannon nomination)
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Alan Crosby)