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Inside Rubio’s Dealmaking on the Ambassador to Mexico

Senate confirmation came only after a dizzying spell of deal cutting

Marco Rubio had objected to the confirmation of the ambassador to Mexico. But deals were cut and she went through. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Marco Rubio had objected to the confirmation of the ambassador to Mexico. But deals were cut and she went through. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate finally confirmed an ambassador to Mexico after dealmaking that involved sanctions against Venezuela, the renaming of a D.C. street and cooperation between two erstwhile GOP presidential rivals.  

The Senate received paperwork from the White House for Roberta Jacobson to fill the post last June, but whether at the Capitol or on the campaign trail, Marco Rubio used his prerogatives as a senator to hold up her confirmation.  

But all went according to plan on Thursday and all objections were dropped. Jacobson then was confirmed easily.  

The deals that led to unclogging her nomination unfolded this way:  

Rubio’s objection to Jacobson was rooted in the Obama administration’s decision to open new relations with Cuba. Jacobson’s a top-level State Department official responsible for affairs in Latin America.  

But a Senate aide said Rubio changed his position in exchange for the Senate advancing a measure to sanction Venezuela for violating the human rights of anti-government protestors.  

As part of the deal making, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., wanted Sen. Ted Cruz to lift his longstanding objection to Senate passage of the fiscal 2016 State Department authorization.  

To get that piece of the puzzle done, Rubio worked with Cruz, his former presidential rival from Texas. He promised to convince the House to advance Senate-passed legislation that included a provision backed by Cruz to designate a street in front of the Chinese Embassy Washington as “Liu Xiaobo Plaza.” That would honor the pro-democracy leader and longtime political prisoner.  

[Related: Inside the Cruz Rubio Ambassadorial War]
Following prolonged discussions, the gears then began turning for Jacobson to be confirmed.  

The Foreign Relations Committee reported out the bill, which included a Rubio amendment, to extend sanctions for three years against some Venezuelan officials.  

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who has been among the most vocal advocates for the Jacobson confirmation, said Wednesday that the plan for an agreement with Rubio was related to advancing his sanctions legislation. The full Senate did that.  

“There is simply no reason to go any longer without an ambassador to Mexico when we have someone as well-qualified as Roberta Jacobson,” Flake said.  

The Senate finally agreed to that, too.  

Rachel Oswald contributed to this report.  

Contact Lesniewski at and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

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