WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton complained Wednesday that domestic political battles are hurting President Barack Obama's foreign policy goals and damaging America's image abroad.
Testifying before a congressional committee, Clinton said fights between the White House and Congress have led to gridlock in appointing officials to critical positions, including those with crucial foreign policy and international assistance responsibilities. That has created confusion among friends and allies, she said.
"We're now more than a year into a new administration, and whether you agree or disagree with a particular policy, a president deserves to have the people that he nominates serving him," Clinton told the Senate Appropriations Committee.
In response to questions from Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, she noted that delays and holds placed on the nominations of several ambassadorial and senior State Department positions had been problematic.
"It became harder and harder to explain to countries, particularly countries of significance, why we had nobody in position for them to interact with," Clinton said.
She did not identify the positions to which she referred nor the lawmakers who delayed the confirmations but in one well-publicized case last year, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint held up for months the appointments of both the new ambassador to Brazil and the incoming top diplomat for Western Hemisphere affairs over policy toward Honduras.
In another case, early this year several State Department appointees were among dozens caught in a blanket hold on Obama nominees by Sen. Richard Shelby, also a Republican, who placed it over concerns about an Air Force refueling tanker contract that he wanted positioned in his home state, Alabama, and a new FBI explosives center he wants built there.
Clinton said foreign governments have trouble understanding the way the U.S. process works when situations like that arise.
"People don't understand the way our system operates; they just don't get it," she said. "And their view does color whether the United States ... is in a position going forward to demonstrate the kind of unity and strength and effectiveness that I think we have to in this very complex and dangerous world."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.