The US Capitol building in Washington, DC, on July 29, 2011
Washington (AFP) - The Senate confirmed US ambassadors to Kuwait and Qatar on Thursday, as top Democrats laid into Republicans for slow-walking dozens more of President Barack Obama's nominations.
Career Foreign Service officers Douglas Silliman and Dana Smith were confirmed as the new envoys to Kuwait and Qatar, respectively.
Smith's confirmation process took a relatively quick two months, but Silliman's lasted seven months, a length of time that has become more the rule than the exception in a thoroughly gridlocked Senate.
"I really appreciate it today, we get two ambassadors," Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said sarcastically on the Senate floor. "We've only got 27 more to go."
Secretary of State John Kerry, who warned in a strongly worded op-ed in Politico this week that Senate gridlock was "hobbling American diplomacy," put the number higher, saying before Thursday's confirmations that Washington was left without permanent ambassadors in 40 countries.
A quarter of all US ambassadorships in Africa are currently unfilled.
The Obama administration has pressed for rapid confirmation of the president's envoys in order to flesh out the US diplomatic corps to better address flashpoints like the Middle East or eastern Ukraine.
"Make no mistake: Vacancies in so many world capitals send a dangerous message to allies and adversaries alike about America's engagement," Kerry wrote.
With Republicans furious over what they see as Obama's executive overreach, they have thrown up roadblocks in the Democrat-controlled Senate to slow the Obama agenda.
According to Kerry, 53 nominees to various State Department posts are awaiting confirmation, 37 of whom have already been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Those 37 have waited an average of 245 days -- eight months -- for confirmation, the State Department said.
The Senate last month confirmed new US ambassadors to Egypt and Iraq.