The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed confidence Wednesday that Gov. Nikki Haley would have the necessary votes to be confirmed as President-elect Donald Trump’s first United Nations ambassador.
“I think you’ve impressed everybody in the individual meetings you’ve had,” U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, said. “I’m certain you’re going to be confirmed overwhelmingly.”
The comment came after Haley spent more than three hours answering questions from senators as she tried to reassure them she’d be a good choice for the position, despite her lack of foreign policy experience. Haley said she’d work to make the U.N. more efficient and would “speak truth to power.”
“Like most government agencies, the United Nations could benefit from a fresh set of eyes,” she said in her opening statement. “I will take an outsider’s look at the institution. As I have in every challenge in my life, I will come to the U.N. to work and to work smart.”
Republicans on the committee focused on the U.N. Security Council’s resolution last month that condemned Israeli settlements into territory claimed by Palestinians, using it as an example of their growing frustration with a world body they believe does not line up to American interests. Democrats pressed Haley on whether she agreed or disagreed with various controversial positions taken by Donald Trump.
Haley admitted she has little foreign policy experience, but believed she can still do the job. “I don’t claim that I know everything or that leadership at the U.N. is the same as leading South Carolina. But diplomacy itself is not new to me.
She broke with Trump in several areas, including suggesting Russia’s aggression — particularly in Ukraine and the Crimea — is a threat to America and its NATO allies. Trump has avoided the traditional American position of viewing Russian annexation of Crimea as illegitimate and even hinted last year he would “be looking into” the possibility of lifting sanctions against Russia for that annexation in exchange for other concessions. Trump has also questioned if the U.S. truly benefits from its NATO alliance.
Haley took a starkly different position. “I think it is Russia trying to make sure that they are inserting themselves into places where they want to continue to insert themselves,” she said in answer to committee questioning. “The problem is: there is no boundary with Russia. They don’t have boundaries. They consider that whatever they want, they will.”
There were very few heated moments between the governor and Democratic senators on the committee — although several — most notably Virginia U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and Delaware U.S. Sen. Chris Coons challenged her negative portrayal of the Iran nuclear deal. Coons in particular noted that U.S. allies like France and the United Kingdom had also supported the deal. Haley indicated she would not support the U.S. unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement, as Trump has voiced.
Senators have until the end of Thursday to submit any further questions. If satisfied with Haley’s answers, a vote on her nomination could come as soon as Monday.