What the Confirmation Process Says about Development, Diplomacy and U.S. Global Leadership

January 26, 2021 By Joan Steiger

Today, a bipartisan majority of U.S. Senators overwhelmingly supported Tony Blinken’s confirmation to become the next Secretary of State by a vote of 78–22. Throughout Blinken’s confirmation process in the Senate, and that of other Biden cabinet picks, the importance of U.S. development, diplomacy and global leadership has been a key theme of appointees and Senators alike.

Read USGLC President and CEO Liz Schrayer’s statement on Tony Blinken’s confirmation here.

During his confirmation hearing, Blinken emphasized why U.S. engagement matters: “The reality is the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged… one of two things is likely to happen: Either some other country tries to take our place… or maybe just as bad, no one does.”

Here’s a roundup of more quotes from the 71st Secretary of State’s testimony on the importance of development, diplomacy, and U.S. global leadership:

  • On diplomacy: “As a general rule, we’re much better off being at the table than being outside the room if we’re going to try to influence those institutions and organizations and move them in a better direction.”
  • On China relations: “If we’re pulling back from the world, if we’re pulling back from the institutions, if we’re pulling back from playing that lead role in shaping the rules and the norms, that gives [China] the free field to redefine the century more on their terms than on ours.”
  • On COVID-19: “We have a national interest… in doing our part to make sure that as the vaccine becomes available, we help get it out there as quickly and as effectively as we can.” The risk if we don’t: “The potential for a debt crisis among emerging economies… public health crises… state fragility.”
  • On diversity: “One of the things that I am determined to focus on if confirmed is on making good on building…a workforce at State that looks more like the country it represents.”

Republicans and Democrats alike on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shared many of these viewpoints during Blinken’s confirmation hearing last week.

  • Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT): “The world is a safer place if we are involved… that doesn’t mean necessarily military engagement in the world. It means promoting our values, our economic interest and so forth.”
  • Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT): “It doesn’t make sense to me given the threats presented to the United States today that we have more military band members than we do diplomats.”

And on the Senate floor ahead of his confirmation vote, the Chair and Ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had this to say:

  • Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ): “Mr. Blinken must be confirmed so we can start addressing the challenges we face abroad. Every day there is an event or calamity across the globe. And whether it is a massacre in Ethiopia or democratic protests in Russia, we need U.S. leadership and engagement to chart our foreign policy through these troubling times.”
  • Senator Jim Risch (R-ID): “Mr Blinken has a long and distinguished history when it comes to statecraft and foreign relations matters…We need a Secretary of State. This is the person for the job.”

Blinken is now the fourth cabinet official in the Biden Administration confirmed by the Senate, and recently confirmed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines expressed similar views on the importance of America’s diplomacy and development tools in supporting U.S. global leadership and America’s national security during their own confirmation hearings preceding their Senate votes.

General Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense

  • On diplomacy: “It’s an easy answer for me…I think it is absolutely important that the State Department be resourced adequately.”
  • On alliances: “I think that fighting as a part of a team, as a part of a coalition, is absolutely a part of who we are, something that we treasure. If confirmed, I’ll look forward to reestablishing some of the critical partnerships and alliances that we’ve had and working with our allies to make sure that we keep them on board as we move forward fast.”

Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence

  • On global health: “Enabling U.S. global health leadership and positioning us to defend and detect future outbreaks before they become pandemics” will be a top priority.”
  • On alliances: “[Building partnerships] are so critical to the intelligence community. And that’s partnerships with the committee, but it’s also partnerships with academia, with the private sector, with state and local actors and a variety of partnerships around the world… All of those, I think are crucial to making us effective.” 

You can find more information about the positions of the incoming administration’s nominees and appointees on these issues in USGLC’s Global Plum Book.