EXECUTIVE

Hutchison, Trump's pick for NATO envoy, seems headed for confirmation

Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican and former U.S. senator from Texas, appears on track to win Senate confirmation as President Trump’s choice for U.S. ambassador to NATO, the Texas Tribune reported this week.

Hutchison, 74, whom Trump nominated in June, faced questioning at a hearing Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and appeared to have bipartisan support.

Her backers included Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both R-Texas, and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election.

“Few statesmen have the qualifications, the relationships, and gravitas that Senator Hutchison brings to this position,” Cruz told the panel. “After years of inadequate resourcing, Kay led an effort in the Senate to rebuild our military and helped prepare it to meet the new, more stringent demands of the global war on terror.”

Cruz succeeded Hutchison in the Senate, where the nominee served from 1993 to 2013.

Added Kaine: “Kay Bailey, I’m so excited you’re the nominee. Your nomination sends a signal the NATO relationship is an important one.”

Hutchison used part of her testimony Thursday to assure committee members that, if confirmed to represent the U.S. in the Western military alliance, she intended to take a tough stance on Russia, the Tribune reported.

“We are beefing up defenses for an aggressive Russia," she told the committee, adding that she backs members of Congress who are considering new sanctions against Russia in response to its cyberattacks.

Several senators said they found Hutchison’s positions reassuring, given concerns on Capitol Hill about Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Tribune reported.

In her testimony, Hutchison said it was likely that Russia interfered in the 2016 American elections, a conclusion that aligns with a consensus among the country's intelligence agencies.

If confirmed for the ambassadorship, Hutchison will likely have to chart a path between the longtime U.S. commitment to the alliance and Trump’s criticism of other member countries, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The president has frequently charged NATO members with failing to pay their fair share of the organization’s defense costs.

In June, Trump opted not to reaffirm America’s commitment to Article V of the NATO treaty, which assures that all member countries will come to each other’s defense in case of an attack.

But Hutchison’s remarks seemed designed to reassure senators that she believed in NATO’s mission, the Morning News reported.

“I am a strong supporter of this historic defense and security alliance that was formed to protect freedom for all of its members, united and indivisible,” Hutchison said. “I look forward to the Senate confirmation process.”