Clinton Stands By Weld
Sources say Helms' criticism will not affect nomination
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 4) -- Despite opposition from North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms, the Clinton Administration stands by the selection of William Weld as the next ambassador to Mexico, according to sources at the State Department.
Helms has indicated he will block Weld's nomination, saying Weld isn't "ambassador quality" and most likely will not be confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
Helms let it rip Tuesday on the "Fox on Politics" show, saying Weld is "a little loose with his lips sometimes and that sort of thing. But I have nothing against him, but I don't think he ought to be ambassador to Mexico."
The North Carolina Republican said, "I don't think he is ambassador quality and neither do a great many of the conservatives and Republicans in the state of Massachusetts."
Weld took Helms' remarks in stride, saying criticism is part of Senate confirmation.
"Everyone's got their job. It's part of the process. It's a long process. Everyone's got a role to play," Weld said.
Helms is the powerful head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a conservative while Weld is a moderate Republican. Weld has, for example, supported the legalization of marijuana for medical use and has taken liberal positions on social issues like abortion.
State Department officials say the administration expects to forge ahead with the Weld nomination, although the name of the Massachusetts governor has not yet been formally submitted to the Senate.
One official says President Clinton will ask Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to discuss the Weld nomination with Helms. Albright and Helms have struck up a warm, if ideologically divergent, relationship.
Clinton already has named one Republican, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, to his second-term cabinet. Clinton's interest in Weld has injected some additional uncertainty into next year's Massachusetts governor's race.
If Weld is confirmed, it could provide a leg-up to GOP Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci, who would ascend into the governorship and be able to run as an incumbent, to the dismay of Democrats.
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