- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is blocking President Barack Obama’s nominees in the Senate - from up north, in New Hampshire.

Senate Democrats tried to secure confirmation Wednesday of several State Department nominations that the Texas senator has been stalling for months. Cruz wasn’t there to object to a vote, but Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah did it for him.

Cruz’s holds date to July, when he wrote Obama and said he’d hold up State Department nominees because of objections related to the international nuclear agreement with Iran that was signed last year and implemented last month. Spokesman Phil Novack said Cruz “remains engaged in good faith discussions with his colleagues” over the holds.

Democrats brought up the nominations of two State Department officials and the ambassadors to Trinidad and Tobago, Norway and Sweden. Lee objected to all of them, “on behalf of the junior senator from Texas,” who is Cruz.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., fumed on the floor.

“I find it particularly ironic that they’re being held up in many cases by a member of this body that’s out on the campaign trail campaigning for president,” she said. “He’s not here dealing with the work of this country, not here fighting to address the national security of this country by making sure that we confirm these nominees.”

Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota joined Shaheen on the Senate floor, also criticizing the hold ups.

Immediately after the nominations were blocked, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that the Senate’s lack of action is hampering the administration’s ability to represent American values around the world.

“The time is not just now, it’s long past now, to confirm these individuals, let them get at their jobs and let them do the work of furthering foreign policy objectives,” Kirby said.

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AP Diplomatic Correspondent Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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