Ms. Klobuchar: I’d like to thank Senator Cardin for his bipartisan work to get these nominees through the senate as well as Senator McConnell and Senator Reid who has been supportive of getting this done. In fact, both of the nominees that I'm going to talk about for the important allies of Norway and Sweden may be a little bit of a surprise to everyone in the chamber, the 11th and 12th biggest investors in the United States of America come from companies in Norway and Sweden. Two of our biggest allies. And so what is going on here?

Well, this is actually the third time I've come to the floor this year urging Senator Cruz to remove his hold on these nominees so that the senate can move forward and fill these two vital diplomatic vacancies. Various reasons have been raised by him, both to colleagues and then publicly. I was hopeful – I know the negotiations are going on, so I always give room for that. But it is not related to these two countries or these two people. I think that's important to remember. Often our fights are about a particular post because of the post or a particular nominee. That's not what that is, and so I'm hopeful that give us more room to negotiate. So what's going on here?

Well, Norway has been without a confirmed ambassador for 859 days -- 859 days. There was an original nominee that did not work out, withdrawn by the administration. Now then this new nominee was nut that went through the committee without a proficiency-- without a problem, unlike the first nominee. A lot of Norwegians know this.

You have ambassadors from Russia, China, not from the United States of America. In the case Sweden, it has been 468 days since the President nominated Azita Raji to be someone who came through without controversy in the committee. It is past time to get these nominees confirmed. We need a U.S. ambassador.

I will start with Norway -- who is deeply committed to strengthening the relationship between our two countries. Sam Heinz is our nominee from Minnesota, the right person for the job, in addition to being an accomplished lawyer, he has demonstrated his devotion to leadership in the case of advancing human rights. He founded, organized, and served as the first board chair of advocates for human rights, which responds to human rights abuses throughout the world. Obviously this is something Norway cares a lot about, so he is a good fit for this country. Not to mention he is from Minnesota, the home of 1.5 million people of Norwegian dissent, more than any other place in the world next to Norway.

Now we go to Sweden. Azita Raji is an incredibly qualified nominee, a former business leader. She served as a member of the president's business commission on fellowships, a member of the Brenton Woods committee, an organization that supports international finance institutions.

Mr. President, these are qualified nominees but you don't have to take my word for it. Here is what Senator Tom Cotton, your Republican colleague, said about Sam Heinz, and Azita Raji. "I believe both are qualified and we have significant ties in Scandinavia. My hope is that both nominees receive vote in the senate sooner rather than later." He said this in part because for a while he had a hold. He got those issues resolved. Senator Cotton has said he thinks these two nominees, there's no problem. As we know, the other Republicans on this committee have not raised any objections. They are right. We have significant interests in Scandinavia and leaving these key positions vacant is a slap in the face to Sweden and Norway, two of our best economic and military allies.

In a December New York Times op-ed, former Vice President Walter Mondale highlighted the U.S. national security interests in confirming these nominees saying, that “in a time of dangerous international crises, we need to work with friends and allies using all the tools of diplomacy." Vice President Mondale understands that now is not the time to forsake 200-year-old diplomatic relationships.

Mr. President, Norway and Sweden share a vital security partnership. Listen to this, Norway, one of our country's strongest international allies, a founding member of the NATO alliance and its military works with the United States. This is key to my colleagues who care about the aggression of Russia. Norway works with us in standing up to Russia's provocations in the Ukraine, encountering ISIS and the spread of violence and Islamic extremism. Norway has a portion of its border it shares with Russia. Norway is playing an important role in the Syrian refugee crisis. It expects to take in as many as 25,000 refugees this year. It has provided more than $6 million to Greece to help respond to the influx of refugees seeking a way to enter Europe. I would also add from a military standpoint that Norway recently purchased 22 more fighter planes. 22 more fighter planes, bringing their total up to over 50 from Lockheed Martin based in Senator Cruz's district, in the Fort Worth, where these planes are being built and they are worth nearly $200 million apiece.

That is what Norway is investing in the United States. They deserve an ambassador. Sweden, like Norway, plays an important role in our national security. Sweden is a strong partner in our fight against ISIS and our attempts to curb North Korea's nuclear program and in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression and in promoting global democracy and human rights.

Sweden is also on the front lines of the Syrian refugee crisis. More than 1,200 refugees seek asylum in Sweden every day and Sweden accepts more refugees per capita than any country in the E.U. All of us talked about the importance of a strong Europe during this are time. Yet every other nation in Europe has an ambassador except for Sweden and Norway.

So I ask my friends and colleagues on the other side who are not obstructing, who are not obstructing these nominations that they help us to work this out with Senator Cruz because this has gone on for far too long. This isn't a joke. These are two major allies. Mr. President, we also have economic relationships. As I mentioned, Norway represented the fifth fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment in the U.S. between 2009 and 2013. That's in the world. And it's the 12th largest source of foreign direct investment in the U.S. overall. Maybe they're too quiet about it and people don't realize it. We would never think of blocking an ambassador to England or France but right now ambassadors to these two countries are being blocked. There are over 300 American companies with a presence in Norway. By not having an ambassador to Norway, we are sending a message to one of the top investors in our country, sorry, you're not important for us to have an ambassador in your country. But all the other major nations have an ambassador.

In October, as I mentioned, they reiterated their commitment by buying all those fighter planes right from the state of Texas from Lockheed Martin. Norwegian Defense Minister Ine said Norway's F-35 purchase marks -- quote -- "the largest public procurement in Norwegian history. It's been 30 years since Norway ordered new combat planes. And instead of choosing a European manufacturer, what did they choose? They chose a manufacturer in the United States, right in Texas. You think those other European countries don't have ambassadors in Norway? They do. And I hope Senator Cruz and his friends are listening to this right now because they chose to buy those planes from the United States, right from his home state of Texas. Sweden, like Norway, is also one of the biggest investors in the U.S. Sweden is the 11th largest direct investor in the U.S. Swedish foreign investment in the U.S. amounts to roughly $56 billion and creates nearly 330 330,700 U.S. jobs. The U.S. is Sweden's fourth largest U.S. market with Swedish exports valued at an estimated $10.28 billion. Sweden like Norway deserves an ambassador.

Scandinavian Americans are understandably frustrated by the fact that Senator Cruz is obstructing these nominees. As a senator from the state that is home to more Swedish Americans and Norwegian Americans than any other state -- I know it because Ii hear it every day. But I hear it from people across the country. And most importantly, I hear it from the foreign minister and others in the countries that are waiting to get an ambassador.

So again, we have an ambassador in France. We have one in England. We have one in Germany. We have an ambassador in nearly every European nation, but not in these two key Scandinavian countries. There is really no doubt about the important relationship between our country and Norway and Sweden. We need to confirm Sam Heinz and Azita Raji immediately. I do appreciate the support of nearly every Republican senator for these nominees, the support of the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Corker, the great leadership of Senator Cardin, the leadership of Senator Reid and Senator McConnell on these issues, the leadership of my colleague Senator Franken who you will hear from shortly. It is time to get these done.

I ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations, and that would be calendar number 263, that the senate proceed to vote without intervening action or debate on this nomination and that if confirmed the motion to reconsider be considered be made and laid upon the table.

The Presiding Officer: is there objection?

Mr. Lee: Mr. President?

The Presiding Officer: The senator from Utah.

Mr. Lee: On behalf of the junior senator from Texas, I object.

The Presiding Officer: Objection is heard.

Ms. Klobuchar: I note that senator lee, as I assume he did with the other objections, was making this objection on behalf of Senator Cruz. Secondly, that was the ambassador to Norway that I asked for consent for. I now ask consent for the ambassador to Sweden. I ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations. That would be calendar number 148. That the senate proceed to vote without intervening action or debate on the nomination, that if confirmed the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table.

The Presiding Officer: Is there objection?

Mr. Lee: Mr. President?

The Presiding Officer: The senator from Utah.

Mr. Lee: On behalf of the junior senator from Texas, I object.

The Presiding Officer: Objection is heard.

Ms. Klobuchar: I believe we'll now hear from Senator Franken, my colleague from Minnesota.