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Kerry: 'Two Years and Three Quarters Left as the Secretary, Provided I Don’t Screw Up'

7:19 AM, May 6, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the U.S. embassy staff in Luanda, Angola on Sunday as he continued his visit to the continent of Africa.  A portion of his remarks seemed to reflect the secretary's awareness of the somewhat precarious position he may be in owing to numerous volatile situations currently on his plate (Iran, Syria, Israel-Palestinian peace talks, Ukraine). As he spoke about significant events currently underway in Angola as well as in Africa in general, Kerry expressed his recognition of how limited his time is, and that conceivably it could be abbreviated further if he were to "screw up":

And there’s so much that can be done. I have to tell you, I’m filled with a sense of wow, I wish I had more time. I only have two years and three quarters left as the Secretary, provided I don’t screw up in the next few months, and I have to tell you that I’m looking at all of these opportunities everywhere I go and the changes that are coming.

Earlier in his talk, Kerry referenced the ongoing contentious Senate battle over nominations for diplomatic positions that has left dozens of positions unfilled in U.S. facilities around the world. Kerry thanked the deputy chief of mission in Angola, Heather Merritt, for her service and noted that she'd been "forced into duty because of the absence of an ambassador for an entire year."  Kerry expressed frustration at the "political morass" that was causing the delays:

Heather, thank you. I left Heather over here. I’m really proud of the work that Heather is doing. She’s been forced into duty because of the absence of an ambassador for an entire year, which is pretty amazing – very frustrating to me that we have about 45 or so ambassadors that we’re waiting on from the United States Senate. But as you all know, the Senate has been sort of caught up in a very difficult political morass, and we’ve suffered as a result of it. We have a number of nominees that we’re still waiting for.

Democrats in the Senate blame Republicans for obstructionism, but Republicans say that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is responsible due to his invocation of the "nuclear option" which changed rules regarding filibusters for many presidential nominations. In a recent appearance before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Kerry was careful to thank both Republicans and Democrats on the committee for their hard work on nominations, saying of the problem: "[I]t’s not the fault of the committee, but ... a combination of vetting process and public process and so forth and the combination of the slowdown on the floor of the Senate."

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