Congress’s New Confirmation Power Should Apply to Current Special Envoys

In a major change, the Senate is about to get significant new powers over an entire class of important diplomatic positions. Beginning in January 2023, U.S. Special Envoys—previously appointed at presidential discretion—will require Senate confirmation thanks to a provision included in the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act. While there is ambiguity in the law, it strongly suggests that currently sitting Special Envoys reporting to the Secretary of State also require Senate confirmation, including Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley. There are 54 Special Envoy or similar positions of which 41 are currently filled.

Congress should clarify whether the law applies to sitting Special Envoys. However, given the particular importance and urgency of the Iran portfolio, the White House should move quickly to officially nominate Malley for confirmation and senators should vet him or any nominee on the administration’s policy to respond to the widespread protests in Iran calling for the regime’s ouster, Iran’s provision of weapons to aid Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and malign influence in the Middle East, and Tehran’s repeated rejection of U.S. diplomatic offers.

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Andrew Ghalili – Senior Policy Analyst
Ari Cicurel – Senior Policy Analyst