President Barack Obama’s long-blocked nominee to become ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, could be approved by the U.S. Senate later this week, according to several sources.
Jacobson, a high-ranking State Department official was selected by President Barack Obama last June but her nomination was stalled by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) largely because of her work on the White House efforts to normalize relations with Cuba which the Cuban American legislator strongly opposes
Three sources familiar with efforts in Congress to unblock her nomination confirmed to Univision that discussions are underway that could result in Jacobson being confirmed by the end of the week. Under a deal being worked out that involves Rubio as well as presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the White House, Jacobson's nomination could be voted on as early as Thursday evening before Congress going on recess for a week, the sources said.
The United States has been without an ambassador to Mexico since July.
On Tuesday Rubio also spoke on the Senate floor saying he was not ready to lift his objections to Jacobson's nomination, but added he was "hopeful that we can find a way to resolve this issue in the very near future."
The offices of Cruz and Rubio did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Jacobson's nomination is backed by two senior Republican border state senators, John Cornyn of Texas, who is the second-ranking Republican, as well as Arizona's Jeff Flake, a longtime backer of normalizing relations with Cuba.
"It is my understanding that a deal, an agreement, is in the works that will ultimately lead to the successful confirmation later this week," Flake said in a speech on Wednesday.
A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Flake has repeatedly insisted on the need to have an ambassador in Mexico, which is the United States’ third-largest trading partner. He took to the Senate floor on Tuesday and Wednesday seeking to secure a vote to confirm Jacobson’s nomination.
"It should be incomprehensible to anyone around the country to have a post of the top diplomat to one of our most important bilateral relations open for this long," he said on Tuesday. "To my knowledge, the hold on this process is not based on any concrete concerns with the qualifications of this specific nominee. She enjoys overwhelming support."
In a statement last November announcing his opposition to Jacobson, Rubio criticized Jacobson for her role in what he called the Obama administration’s "short-sighted and counter-productive” foreign policy, accusing her of not being forthcoming in requests for information and failing to prioritize human rights in Cuba and Venezuela.
The deal to approve Jacobson's nomination apparently involves securing Cruz's support for lifting a block on the State Department's 2016 budget during discussion of its budget for 2017 scheduled on Thursday, according to two sources familiar with the efforts to confirm Jacobson.
In return for lifting his objections, Rubio is pushing for the extension of sanctions against Venezuela for human rights abuses which are due to expire in December under a law passed by Congress in late 2014.
The Venezuelan Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act imposed sanctions on Venezuelan government officials found to have violated the rights of opposition protestors during street demonstrations in 2014 that left 43 dead.
The law denied visas and froze assets of officials involved in handling the protests and blamed them the unrest on Venezuela's mismanagement of its economy. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of plotting with Washington to overthrow his government.