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Photo: Senate.gov

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.

Go deeper

Oct 26, 2021 - World

Ted Cruz will lift his confirmation blockade for Biden’s ambassador to China

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) does not plan on stalling the confirmation of President Biden's ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, as he has done with dozens of other State Department nominees, according to a source familiar with the decision.

Why it matters: Burns, a former career diplomat widely viewed as one of Biden's most qualified nominees, will be tasked with managing the president's defining foreign-policy challenge: preventing "intense competition" with China from spiraling into outright conflict.

21 hours ago - World

The view from Ankara: Expulsion threat is sign of things to come

Erdoğan at the UN. Photo: Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images

The standoff over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors has ended in an expensive draw with short-term political gains.

Why it matters: Erdoğan’s nationalist posturing appeared to be intended to please his voters and divert attention from domestic troubles at a time when public support for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is eroding.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
35 mins ago - Economy & Business

Why it's so hard to tax wealth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The wealth tax that wasn't a wealth tax isn't even a tax, now. The Democrats had a meticulously constructed 107-page proposal to pay for a large chunk of their spending plans with a tax on billionaires, but it died ignobly on Wednesday, the same day it was unveiled.

Why it matters: The dream of a wealth tax will never die as it so neatly generates revenue by reducing inequality. But there are three main reasons why that dream is likely to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future.

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