US Senate confirms Emanuel as envoy to Japan
US lawmakers confirmed Rahm Emanuel as the country’s next ambassador to Japan Saturday, after a contentious nomination process in which fellow Democrats opposed the former Chicago mayor over his record on police violence.
Senators confirmed Emanuel 48-21 as part of a marathon series of votes in the early hours of the morning, with three liberal Democrats voting against.
Emanuel, who earlier served in Congress and as president Barack Obama’s chief of staff, has come under fire over his handling of a Chicago officer’s killing of Black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014, with his administration waiting more than a year to release a police video of the incident.
But he won support from Republicans Bill Hagerty, a former ambassador to Japan, and Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The position of top envoy to one of Washington’s closest allies in Asia has been vacant since 2019, with career diplomats in Tokyo instead taking on the role temporarily.
Senator Risch has said he expects Emanuel to fight a proposal within the Biden administration to declare that the United States will never be the first to launch a nuclear attack, only using the ultra-destructive weapons in retaliation.
Such a policy shift “would betray our alliance with Japan” which is “our greatest asset in our strategic competition with China,” he said.
Some Japanese conservatives have misgivings about a US no-first-use policy, raising speculation in Washington that Tokyo could go nuclear to ensure a greater deterrent.
But many experts doubt there would ever be a decision to develop atomic weapons in Japan — the only nation that has ever suffered a nuclear attack.
Also confirmed Saturday were several US envoys to countries including Spain, Congo and Algeria, as well as a number of federal judges.