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The voice vote to elevate Mr. McFaul to the ambassador’s post came on the last day the Senate was meeting this year after several months of delay.

Mr. McFaul is regarded as one of the nation’s experts on U.S. relations with Russia, and has been involved in the Obama administration’s efforts to restore shaky relations with the Moscow government.

That includes the signing of the new START treaty that set a ceiling of 1,550 strategic warheads in each country’s arsenal.

Mr. McFaul, who taught at Stanford University, was a campaign adviser to Mr. Obama on Russia and Eurasia before moving to the National Security Council to become the president’s chief Russia adviser.

Mr. Obama nominated Mr. McFaul to the post in September, but a Senate vote on his confirmation was held up by Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, over issues with U.S. policies toward Russia.

Mr. Kirk said he wanted written assurances that the United States will not provide Russia with any currently classified information on a missile defense system. The administration said it had no plans to provide Russia with such information.


Democrat drops out of race for Senate

AUSTIN — Retired Lt. Gen. Ric Sanchez, the sole major Democratic candidate in the race to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, is dropping out of the Texas race because of “pressing personal challenges” and a lack of funds.

In an email to supporters Friday afternoon, Mr. Sanchez thanked those who had encouraged him to run but explained he needed to put his family first.

“I am very grateful for the strong support and encouragement I have received from supporters across the country and the wonderful Texans I have met in every part of our great state,” Mr. Sanchez said. “However, pressing personal challenges, coupled with the recent loss of our home due to fire and lagging fundraising numbers make a statewide election campaign impractical for me at this time.”

While the Republican field to replace Mrs. Hutchison is extremely crowded, Mr. Sanchez was the only major candidate in the Democratic Party.

Mrs. Hutchison announced earlier this year that she is retiring after next year.

Many Democratic strategists hoped that Mr. Sanchez, who was born in the Rio Grande Valley, could marshal votes from the state’s growing Hispanic population. But many liberals felt he was a flawed candidate for being the commanding general in Iraq when the abuses of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison occurred.

The official filing period for prospective candidates ends Monday. But because of ongoing litigation over political redistricting in Texas, the filing period will reopen after a federal court approves a final district map, likely in late January, and remain open until Feb. 1.

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