Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) will vote to confirm Ric Grenell as the next U.S. ambassador to Germany, ensuring the confirmation of what will be the highest-ranking ever openly gay person to serve the United States government. Grenell was nominated last year to the position by President Donald Trump.
Grenell, who will be confirmed on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday, will report directly to the Secretary of State. The previously highest-ranking openly gay official in government was Barack Obama-era Army Secretary Eric Fanning—who reported directly to the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense is lower-ranking than the Secretary of State in the presidential line of succession.
There have been other U.S. ambassadors who are openly gay, but none for a country as important to U.S. diplomatic ends as Germany—given Germany’s economic, military, geographic, and strategic importance in mainland Europe.
Manchin’s office confirmed to Breitbart News on Thursday morning he will vote for Grenell’s confirmation, making Manchin the first Democrat to publicly back Grenell. Grenell, per Senate GOP leadership sources, already had all the rest of the votes he needs for confirmation with 49 definitive Republican yes votes. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been unclear for some time on this, though may vote for him in the end. But with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) out due to health reasons, Paul’s vote is unnecessary to ensure Grenell’s confirmation in the end now that Manchin will vote for him.
Vice President Mike Pence will be on hand to break a tie just in case, but Grenell now has 49 votes—ensuring confirmation.
Grenell’s confirmation process was one of many held up since his original nomination last year, but he is finally getting his confirmation vote on Thursday ahead of Friday’s visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Grenell’s higher-profile stature as an early supporter of President Trump as far back as the early days of his campaign in 2015 has drawn more attention to his nomination hold-up than other nominations.
Manchin faces a tough re-election battle this November in a state where President Trump is extraordinarily popular. He will face off against either Attorney General Patrick Morrisey–the frontrunner in recent polls and a key Trump supporter–or Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV), an establishment-backed former Democrat running with the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Don Blankenship, an ex-energy executive who was convicted of a number of crimes, is also running for the GOP nomination–but he is trailing in the polls significantly. The winner of the May 8 GOP nomination contest will face Manchin in November in what is sure to be a general election battle about who supports the president’s agenda more.