Rahm Emanuel’s confirmation hearing in Japan highlights Democratic tensions

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Japan is attracting above-average attention, and not because of the importance that Tokyo plays in Washington’s global alliance system.

Despite Emanuel’s years as a skilled and ruthless practitioner of partisan politics in Washington, including as a top House Democrat and as President Barack Obama’s first chief of staff, his appointment as ambassador prestigious and highly sought after aroused the fiercest ire of members of his own party.

While no Senate Democrats have yet spoken out against Emanuel’s appointment, several progressive House Democrats, known collectively as the “scouade,” have done so, in addition to a few progressive militant groups. It is unclear whether they will influence senators, who are the only lawmakers to vote on U.S. diplomat candidates.

Emanuel, who successfully led the Democrats’ efforts to retake the House midway through 2006, has garnered support from his former colleagues, including the top three Democratic House leaders. He also has the support of two senators from his home state of Illinois: Richard J. Durbin, the second Democrat in the Senate; and Tammy Duckworth.

The main objection progressives have to the appointment of Emanuel is that as mayor of Chicago, his administration suppressed the publication for more than a year of a scoreboard video that showed the fatal shooting of a white cop in 2014 on Laquan McDonald, 17, who was Black, as the teenager walked away. At the time, Emanuel was running for re-election.

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