3rd Senate Democrat opposes George Tsunis ambassador to Norway nomination

George James Tsunis during his Senate confirmation hearing

George James Tsunis during his Senate confirmation hearing to be the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway in Washington, D.C. on Jan 16, 2014. Photo Credit: US Senate

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WASHINGTON -- A third Senate Democrat Thursday came out against the beleaguered nomination of Long Island businessman and political fundraiser George Tsunis to be U.S. ambassador to Norway.

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said he will oppose President Barack Obama's nominee because of concerns raised about Tsunis' stumbling performance at his confirmation hearing.

"I do not believe Mr. Tsunis is the right person for the job and will oppose his nomination," Johnson said in a statement, because his "hearing did not give me confidence in his knowledge of Norway or his ability to be an effective ambassador."

Johnson's defection leaves just 52 votes in the Democratic caucus for Tsunis, who needs 51 votes for confirmation. How many Republicans will vote for him is unclear. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has vowed to block his nomination.

Johnson's position was first reported by his home state newspaper, the Argus Leader.

Obama nominated Tsunis, 46, the chairman of Chartwell Hotels and a resident of Cold Spring Harbor, last September. A final vote has stalled in a partisan fight over Senate rules.

Johnson's statement came a week after Minnesota Democratic Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar made their opposition public. All three cited concerns among Norwegian-American constituents.

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Tsunis' gaffes in the hearing include calling Norway's prime minister a "president" and describing the Progress Party as "fringe elements" that "spew their hatred," though the party is in Norway's coalition government.

He also has been criticized as an example of presidents rewarding campaign donors as ambassadors. Tsunis switched parties and raised $988,550 for Obama's re-election in 2012.


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