US ambassador’s post to remain vacant even longer after nomination vetoed

US embassy in Prague

The post of United States ambassador to Prague has gone unfilled since the start of 2009, when the previous, George Bush-appointed ambassador resigned. Now it appears the job will remain vacant for even longer, after the Obama administration’s choice for envoy to the Czech Republic was rejected in the US Senate.

The term of the last American ambassador to Prague, Richard Graber, ended on January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama became president. Since that time the grand US ambassador’s residence in the Czech capital has been without an occupant.

Journalist Daniel Anýž, who was formerly based in Washington, says the continued failure to fill the post represents an “unpleasant situation” in relations between the two countries.

“And also it’s kind of symbolical. You can take it as symbolical that there is no ambassador in Prague. On one level there are technical issues, because he was not approved by the Senate, twice already. But you can hear more and more often that it’s strange that such an ally as the Czech Republic doesn’t have an ambassador.”

Norman Eisen
Efforts have been made to fill the post. Billionaire businessman Marc Nathanson had been in the frame, but was reported this January to have had problems getting the required security clearance.

Then at the end of June the matter appeared to have been resolved, with the announcement that Norman Eisen would be coming to the Czech capital.

Mr Eisen is a lawyer who has advised President Obama on ethical matters, and at the time much was made of his central European roots. His nomination seemed to be the proverbial shoo-in.

However, it hit a major bump in the road on Thursday, when Republican Chuck Grassley, with whom Mr Eisen had previously clashed, blocked the appointment in the Senate.

But all is not lost as regards Mr Eisen’s nomination, as Senator Grassley’s veto may be overridden, says Daniel Anýž.

US embassy in Prague
“This hold could be removed…and maybe at the end of this year when the Senate is back they could try to appoint him again. There is another possibility, if I am not wrong, which is that the administration could approve Mr Eisen in recess time. So there is still a chance that till the end of this year Mr Eisen could be approved.”

It would seem then that the position of US ambassador to Prague will remain vacant until at least January, two years after the previous American envoy went home.