Scoop: Dem donor Tsunis is Biden's pick for Greece
President Biden plans to nominate hotel executive and major Democratic donor George Tsunis as his envoy to Greece, according to people familiar with the matter.
Why it matters: Senate Foreign Relations Chair Robert Menendez (D-N.J) had pushed Biden to pick Tsunis, and now Tsunis has a second chance to prove he's worthy of serving as an ambassador after his failed nomination under President Obama.
- Tsunis was Obama's choice for Norway in 2012, but he stumbled in his confirmation hearing. Republican Sen. John McCain — and the entire country of Norway — pounced, and Tsunis' nomination languished.
- The nomination, expected this afternoon, will come before the Greek foreign minister arrives in Washington to sign a renewed Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement on Oct. 14 that will bolster the U.S. Navy's presence in Souda Bay on the coast of Crete.
Between the lines: Tsunis was born in Queens, but Greek was his first language and he didn't learn English until he went to kindergarten.
- Tsunis is deeply involved in a variety of Greek causes in the U.S. and served as the vice chair of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
- If confirmed by the Senate, Tsunis would replace Ambassador Geoffrey R. Pyatt, a career foreign service officer who also served as ambassador to Ukraine.
The big picture: Biden, who promised to rebuild the state department and reinvigorate diplomacy, is naming ambassadors at a much slower rate than his predecessors.
- Republicans in the Senate are also slowing the confirmation process with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) vowing to erect procedural roadblocks on all nominees in an attempt to extract policy and personnel concessions from Biden.
Go deeper: In announcing his ambassadorial picks, Biden has been pairing political ambassadors with professional diplomats and will likely make non-career nominations for about 30% of the roughly 190 total ambassadorships, leaving 70% for foreign service officers.
- That 70:30 ratio would be in line with the traditional breakdown, according to the American Foreign Service Association.
- President Trump nominated political ambassadors for about 44% of his appointments.
- For non-career ambassadors, Biden is picking more politicians, like LA Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) for India and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) for Turkey, than pure political donors.