WASHINGTON – Minneapolis lawyer Sam Heins told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday that he would be a reliable, diligent and energetic ambassador to Norway.

“I will devote every effort to enhancing this remarkable relationship,” Heins said. “We Minnesotans are happy to think of ourselves as honorary Norwegians.”

It was the first hearing for Heins, who was nominated for the post in May by President Obama. Minnesota Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken introduced Heins with high praise at the hearing, adding to their long-standing support for the position going to a Minnesotan due to the state’s large Norwegian population.

Franken called Heins, who co-founded the Minneapolis-based nonprofit The Advocates for Human Rights, “a distinguished Minnesotan” and stressed the importance of relations between Norway and Minnesota.

“Norway and Minnesota enjoy a very productive bilateral relationship,” Franken said. “I’m pleased (Heins) was nominated … and I look forward to his speedy confirmation.”

Heins’ nomination comes after the Senate declined the nomination of New York businessman George Tsunis last year. Tsuni, who admitted to never having been to Norway, stumbled frequently during his senate confirmation hearing.

The position has been vacant September 2013. Klobuchar said it is time to fill this important position and she thanked the committee for holding the hearing so soon after Heins was nominated.

“Norway deserves an ambassador who understands the country and is equally committed to the relationship,” Klobuchar said. “Getting an ambassador confirmed would be a major step forward.”

Heins, one of six nominees for ambassador positions who testified at Wednesday’s hearing, has been a prominent fundraiser for Minnesota Democrats and President Obama. If appointed his tenure as ambassador will be short given Obama only has about 18 months left in office.

His nomination must now be confirmed by the Senate.

“Norway holds a unique place in the world,” Heins said. “Its relationship with the United States is of tremendous value and significance.”