Menendez says he'll allow vote on controversial Mexico ambassador nominee

In a key development regarding the U.S. ambassadorship to Mexico, Sen. Bob Menendez says he will not block a long-delayed Senate vote on the confirmation of Roberta Jacobson.

The position has been vacant since last July, when Earl Wayne stepped down.

But a vote on Jacobson has been held up by some senators because of opposition to her role in the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States.

Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, are both Cuban-Americans and have typically supported a hardline U.S. approach to Cuba as long as the Castro regime resists democratic reform and cracks down on dissent, among other things.

Both senators were said to have been blocking a vote on Jacobson, who is the State Department's assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Menendez this week told The Hill that he was not trying to obstruct a vote, and that, in fact, the Senate should move on her nomination by President Barack Obama.

Menendez, however, said he would vote against her.

“I don't have a hold on her,” Menendez told The Hill. “My solution is we'll have a vote on her.”

“I intend to vote against her because of a series of things that happened not related to Cuba, not related to Mexico," Menendez said to The Hill.

Rubio has not hidden his negative views of Jacobson. He has said she played a part in drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman not being extradited to the United States from Mexico, as well as negotiations with Cuba even though it continues to violate human rights.

Rubio wrote a letter to Jacobson this year accusing her of withholding information from Congress about a Hellfire missile that had been used in a European training exercise and then sent to Cuba.

Supporters of Jacobson call the delay on the vote a political game that is leaving an important post vacant.

"Our relationship with Mexico is far too important to let this post go vacant for any longer," said Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, earlier this year to his colleagues. "The longer we go without an ambassador there, the more this partnership will suffer."

Praise for Menendez's move came from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, or USHCC, which has been vocal in pushing for a vote.

"Although Menendez has declared his intention to remain on the wrong side of history by voting against Jacobson's confirmation, his call for a full Senate vote demonstrates his willingness to stop playing political games and put good policy ahead of politics," said USHCC president Javier Palomarez. "We urge Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to follow suit in the best interests of the American people."

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