Germans want Senate action on Trump's pick for ambassador

German politicians and the media seem to be growing impatient with the U.S. Senate’s failure to confirm President Trump’s choice for ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, more than four months after the longtime foreign policy expert was formally nominated.

And while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday voted its support for Grenell – for the second time, in fact – it’s not clear if Democrats who have thus far blocked his appointment, along with those of a number of other ambassadorial appointments, are any closer to allowing a full vote.

"America needs a voice in Germany!" read the headline last week of a commentary piece by Florian von Heintze, the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of BILD. "When the German-America relationship suffers, that damages Germany. We have no more an important ally in the world.

“Ric Grenell has already been nominated for ambassador. He is a man who has a direct line to the president and is a heavyweight in matters of foreign policy.” The BILD is widely viewed as mandatory reading by German politicians and policy makers because of its high circulation.

Politicians from Germany’s leading political parties have similarly weighed in.

“Richard Grenell has a strong and convincing background in foreign policy with his long term experience at the United Nations and in other positions,” Uwe Becker, the deputy mayor of the German city of Frankfurt and a prominent member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, told Fox News before Thursday’s vote. “Not having a serving American ambassador under the American flag besides the Brandenburg Gate is not a good symbol for the deep friendship that we have with the United States."

Carsten Ovens, a Christian Democratic Union politician in the German city-state of Hamburg, told Fox News "it is regrettable the appointed U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell cannot start his service,” and called on the Senate to “find a political solution" toward solidifying "a strong and vital trans-Atlantic partnership." 

Grenell, a former Fox News contributor, had previously served as the spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations. He was confirmed along party lines in committee in October, but needed to be reconfirmed a second time because of inaction in the previous Senate session.

American conservatives have also pressed Grenell’s case, warning against unnecessary stresses in U.S.-German relations in the absence of a sitting ambassador.

Writing in the Washington Post this month, talk show host Hugh Hewitt said "Not having Grenell on post as the refugee crisis roils Germany, through discussions of NATO members' dollar and manpower contributions and during the prolonged deadlock on forming a new government is the latest illustration of the damage Democrats have done."

At least one Democratic senator may be open to supporting Grenell. Chris Harris, a spokesman for Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, told Fox News by email earlier this week that "the way this nomination will advance is that [Senators] McConnell, Corker and Cardin will reach an agreement and announce their path forward. Murphy is giving them room to have those discussions, and if they reach an agreement, Murphy would not derail it."

Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the State Department, recognized late last year that Congress has not swiftly acted on the confirmation process.

"Is this all moving fast enough? Absolutely not. We would like it to move faster. The Secretary has had conversations internally here and I know he has a lot of conversations with people on the Hill, including a flurry of letters that will go back and forth between our building and also members on Capitol Hill, trying to get people through," Nauert told a press briefing.

Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based journalist. 

Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal