This vote was on a motion to end debate and clear the way for a separate vote confirming Mari Carmen Aponte as Ambassador to the Republic of El Salvador.
Aponte, a Puerto Rico-born attorney, was appointed Ambassador to El Salvador by President Obama in 2009. After Republicans blocked her confirmation, the White House used a procedural tactic to install her in the position temporarily, but this term expired at the end of 2011. To continue serving, she needed to be confirmed by the Senate, but Senate Republicans had used parliamentary tactics to prevent an up-or-down vote.
Senate Democratic leaders filed a motion for “cloture,” which would set a time limit on the debate that would otherwise be unlimited. If successful, this motion would set the stage for a final, up-or-down vote on confirming Aponte.
No senators spoke out in opposition to the motion, but in previous debates on the Senate floor, opponents of Aponte’s confirmation said they had questions about a man she dated 20 years ago who was accused of having ties to Cuba’s government. They also argued that she was disqualified by an article she wrote in favor of gay rights, which they said was found offensive by some in El Salvador.
“In her op-ed, Ms. Aponte, presuming to represent the view of all Americans in strongly promoting the homosexual lifestyle, wrote that ‘everyone has the responsibility to inform our neighbors and friends about what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.’” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said in November 2011. “The op-ed upset a large number of community and pro-family groups in El Salvador who were insulted by Ms. Aponte’s attempt to impose a pro-gay agenda in their country.”
Supporters of the motion argued that accusations about Aponte’s ex-boyfriend and op-ed were baseless. They said Aponte had a stellar record and was clearly qualified for the position. The absence of an ambassador at the United States’ embassy in El Salvador sent the wrong signal to a country that should be an ally in a troubled region, they argued.
“El Salvador has been without a U.S. ambassador for 5 months. And I would ask colleagues how does this serve our national security or economic interests?” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said. “El Salvador is the only Latin American country to send troops to Afghanistan. It is an increasingly important partner on counternarcotics and trade. Right now, more than 300 U.S. companies are operating on its soil. Bottom line: We are long overdue in bringing Ms. Aponte’s nomination to a vote on the floor.”
The motion to end debate on Aponte’s nomination was approved by a vote of 62-37. Voting “yea” were 53 Democrats and 9 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 37 Republicans. As a result, the Senate ended debate and proceeded to a final, up-or-down vote on Mari Carmen Aponte’s nomination to the position of Ambassador to El Salvador. The Senate then approved the nomination on a voice vote. As a result, the Senate confirmed Mari Carmen Aponte’s appointment as Ambassador to El Salvador.