Republican lawmakers suggest Podesta appointment unlawful without Senate confirmation

Republican lawmakers suggest Podesta appointment unlawful without Senate confirmation

Top Republicans on the House Energy and Senate Environment committees suggested in a letter to the White House on Wednesday that President Biden’s replacement of special climate envoy John Kerry with John Podesta is unlawful without Senate confirmation under a 2021 law.

In the letter, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said Biden replacing Kerry without confirmation would violate the terms of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2022, which requires Senate confirmation for all special envoy positions within the State Department.

Podesta’s position is under the aegis of the White House rather than the State Department, which was where Kerry’s position was based. However, Capito and Rodgers wrote that as Podesta is set to have the same portfolio, “any objective observer would reasonably suspect that you crafted Mr. Podesta’s ‘new’ position to circumvent a recently enacted law so as to duck accountability to Congress and impede or subvert oversight efforts.”

Kerry, appointed to the climate envoy position in 2021, announced in January that he would depart to advise Biden’s reelection campaign. He confirmed earlier this week that he would officially leave the position Wednesday. Podesta, named a White House climate adviser after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, has been given the title “senior advisor to the president for international climate policy,” rather than Kerry’s “special presidential envoy for climate.”

Capito and Rodgers are not the first Republicans to call for Podesta to face the full Senate before taking on the job. In February, Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member James Risch (R-Idaho) said in a statement to The Hill that “[a]ny appointed administration official that will heavily rely on State Department staff and resources should be accountable to congressional committees with jurisdiction over State, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

Reached for comment, a White House official told The Hill “Upon Secretary Kerry’s departure, the existing SPEC State team will report to Rich Verma, the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. John will continue to oversee the White House Office of Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation while working closely with the State Department.”

Updated at 4:21 pm.

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