WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee for United Nations ambassador on Wednesday, sending Kelly Knight Craft to fill the high-profile diplomatic post that’s been vacant for seven months.
Craft’s confirmation, by a 56-to-34 vote, marks a victory not just for Trump but also for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who pressed the president to tap her for the job.
“I’m confident our entire nation will be proud of the fine service she will render as our Ambassador to the United Nations,” McConnell tweeted after the Senate vote. He trumpeted Craft’s tenure as the U.S. ambassador to Canada, particularly her work in the negotiations over a new trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“By all accounts, Ambassador Craft’s involvement led to greater cooperation,” McConnell said in a statement Wednesday.
But Craft came under fire from Senate Democrats for her views on climate change and her family ties to the coal industry. Craft is a top Republican donor from Kentucky, and her billionaire husband, Joseph Craft III, is the president and CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, a major U.S. coal company.
Craft sparked ridicule and outrage in 2017, when she claimed to believe scientists on “both sides” of the climate change debate in an interview with Canada’s CBC television network.
“I believe there are scientists on both sides that are accurate,” Craft said when asked if she believed in climate change. “I think that both sides have, you know, their own results from their studies, and I appreciate and respect both sides of the science.”
Craft flipped her stance during her confirmation hearing last month, telling senators on the Foreign Relations Committee that she believes climate change presents a “real risk” and promising to take the issue seriously in her work at the U.N.
“Climate change needs to be addressed as it poses real risk to our planet,” Craft said at the June hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Many Democrats remained skeptical despite her promise to take climate change seriously at the U.N. The international body has called climate change “the defining issue of our time” as extreme weather, rising sea levels and other problems unfold across the globe.
Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that Craft refused to say she would recuse herself from fossil fuel or climate change matters “despite her spouse’s vast energy interests.”
In a report issued hours before Wednesday’s vote, Menendez said that Craft allowed her husband to attend official energy and environmental meetings in her capacity as U.S. ambassador to Canada.
He also raised pointed questions about her absence from that post.
“Craft spent 357 days out of Canada (more than 58% of her tenure),” Menendez report states. “Craft spent 210 days (7 months) in Kentucky or Oklahoma, where she and her spouse have homes.”
McConnell and other Republicans dismissed those accusations, saying she was often in Washington to attend trade talks – not vacationing with her family.
“I have no doubt Ambassador Craft will faithfully represent the United States and I look forward to working with her as she assumes her new role,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump UN nominee Kelly Knight Craft confirmed over Democrats’ objections