President Biden on Friday nominated former Obama-era White House chief of staff and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve as ambassador to Japan.
Mr. Emanuel, who represented Illinois in the House from 2003 to 2009, had been eyed for several positions in the Biden administration. He had been reportedly under consideration as U.S. Trade Representative or Transportation Secretary.
He has a connection with Mr. Biden, serving as former President Obama’s chief of staff from 2009 to 2011 when Mr. Biden was vice president.
But progressive groups pushed back against Mr. Emmanuel landing a high-profile administration position because of his handling of a 2014 police shooting of a Black teenager while mayor of Chicago.
He decided not to run for a third term amid the controversy over the shooting. Mr. Emanuel had served as mayor from 2011 to 2019.
The controversy could cloud his Senate confirmation hearing, but two top Democrats expressed support for his nomination.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, praised Mr. Emanuel for his “relentlessness and track record of success.”
“His great experience, from the U.S. House to the White House, will serve our nation well, as he works to deepen one of our nation’s most important alliances, champion American interests abroad and advance regional security and prosperity,” she said in a statement.
Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, vowed to do “all I can to help Rahm become America’s voice in Japan.”
And House Majority Whip James Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, said in a statement that he supports the nomination.
Sen. Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Republican and a former U.S. ambassador to Japan, congratulated Mr. Emanuel on his nomination and said he looked forward to speaking with him.
“I understand firsthand that the U.S.-Japan alliance is critical to security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” he said. “Various challenges, including North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and the Chinese Communist Party’s drive for domination, will continue to test the United States, Japan, and our allies and partners in the region.”
The White House touted Mr. Emanuel’s international experience while leading Chicago.
“As mayor, he oversaw increased economic development that revitalized the city and helped solidify its status as a global hub of culture and commerce,” the White House said in a statement Friday.
The White House also announced the nomination of Nicholas Burns to serve as ambassador to China.
A longtime diplomat, Mr. Burns served as ambassador to NATO under former President George W. Bush and ambassador to Greece under former President Clinton.
He also advised Mr. Biden on foreign policy during the 2020 campaign and served as State Department spokesperson under former President Clinton.
Mr. Burns is currently the executive director of the Aspen Strategy Group.