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Markey Merkley

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) speaks while Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) stands by in the United States Senate on June 15, 2021. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

'Black Lives Matter,' Says Merkley, Voting With Markey Against Rahm Emanuel Ambassadorship

The opposition could jeopardize confirmation of the former Chicago mayor—under fire for his racial justice record—to represent the U.S. in Japan.

Brett Wilkins

Progressive U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley on Wednesday came out in opposition to Rahm Emanuel's nomination as United States ambassador to Japan, with Merkely citing the former Chicago mayor's record—which includes trying to cover up the 2014 police murder of Black teen Laquan McDonald—as the reason for his decision.

"Black Lives Matter," Merkley (D-Ore.) explained in a statement. "Here in the halls of Congress, it is important that we not just speak and believe these words, but put them into action in the decisions we make."

"I have carefully considered Mayor Emanuel's record—and the input of civil rights leaders, criminal justice experts, and local elected officials who have reached out to the Senate to weigh in," he added, "and I have reached the decision that I cannot support his nomination to serve as a U.S. ambassador."

According to The Hill, Markey (D-Mass.) joined Merkley in asking to be recorded as a "no" vote during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on Wednesday at which at least two Senate Republicans, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee—a former ambassador to Japan—and Jim Risch of Idaho said they would support Emanuel.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who has pushed to reform law enforcement in the wake of last year's murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, does not oppose Emanuel's nomination, which after the committee vote must still be confirmed by the full Senate.

Civil rights and racial justice activists in Chicago and beyond are urging senators to reject Emanuel—who also served in Congress and as former President Barack Obama's first chief of staff—while rebuking President Joe Biden for nominating him and Democratic congressional leaders for supporting the move.

One of those Chicago activists, progressive congressional candidate Kina Collins, said in a statement Wednesday that she is "grateful to Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ed Markey for having the political courage to stand up for Black lives."

"It's up to the rest of the Senate to follow their lead," she continued, "and prove that the words Black Lives Matter are more than just a hashtag to them."

"It's time for Democrats to do more than kneel and wear Kente cloth for the cameras," Collins added. "We need leaders who are accountable to the communities that put us in power, and who use their votes and their voices to stand up for the value of Black lives—that means rejecting Rahm Emanuel's nomination."

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly said US Senator Jim Risch was from Wisconsin.  He originally is from Wisconsin but represents Idaho.

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