PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday he has blocked Gov. Gina Raimondo’s confirmation as commerce secretary for now, citing her noncommittal responses about how she will handle a controversial Chinese telecommunications company.
Cruz, a Texas Republican, placed a “hold” on Raimondo’s appointment — a power that all 100 senators have to temporarily block action on a nominee.
It’s unclear how long Cruz’s move will delay a vote on the governor’s future. But it is another sign that Raimondo’s confirmation process is likely to drag on well into February, since the Senate is set to begin former President Trump’s impeachment on Monday and later in the month is scheduled to take a one-week recess.
With Democrats in control of the Senate — and Raimondo clearing the Senate Commerce Committee on a bipartisan 21-3 vote Wednesday — there is little reason to think Cruz will block her confirmation altogether. But it adds further uncertainty to the timing of her departure from Rhode Island.
Like other Republican critics of Raimondo, Cruz has focused on her refusal to say whether she will keep the Chinese company Huawei on the U.S. Commerce Department’s Entity List, which restricts their activities in the United States.
As the Congressional Research Service explained in a 2017 report, “The Senate ‘hold’ is an informal practice whereby senators communicate to Senate leaders, often in the form of a letter, their policy views and scheduling preferences regarding measures and matters available for floor consideration.”
However, the CRS report noted that “ultimately the decision to honor a hold request, and for how long, rests with the majority leader” — in this case, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, who wants to confirm Raimondo and other Biden nominees.
Raimondo has mostly disappeared from public view in Rhode Island, despite holding onto her position as governor. She hasn’t answered questions from reporters since Dec. 22 and hasn’t attended any of her own administration’s weekly coronavirus briefings since Jan. 13, although her aides insist she remains engaged behind the scenes.
Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, who has had a strained relationship with Raimondo, has begun attending the coronavirus briefings as he and his transition team continue preparing for him to take over.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Threads, Twitter and Facebook.
Kim Kalunian contributed to this report.