Will Rahm Emanuel Get His Ambassadorship This Year? Here Are The Odds

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on October 21, 2021
rahm emanuel

One of the more controversial figures floated for a position in the gift of the Biden Administration has been former Chief of Staff to Barack Obama and former mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel.

Chief of Staff during the last period of unified Democratic control in Washington DC, Emanuel has his detractors for his handling of that period, in addition to his detractors for his controversial tenure as mayor.

After being floated for Cabinet positions in the winter, Emanuel has been nominated for the position of Ambassador to Japan, and the question of whether he will be confirmed by the Senate by December 31st has become a live question.

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Rahm Emanuel odds to be confirmed by Dec. 31?

Confirmed By 12/31Predictit PriceEquivalent Odds
Yes$0.68-213
No$0.38+163

The Process

Senate confirmation for ambassadorships requires a simple majority of the Senate, meaning that all 50 Democratic Senators, plus VP Kamala Harris, would be enough to get the appointment through. Usually, ambassadorships are fairly non-controversial appointments, with the Trump administration getting two of their crown jewel ambassadors – Canada and the United Kingdom – approved without dissent.

This time, it’s unlikely that Emanuel will get the same easy treatment, because of his controversial past. Mitch McConnell is unlikely to want to help a man who once said that McConnell favored wasteful government spending programs over cancer cures. That said, Emanuel has managed to secure three GOP Senators’ public statements of support.

Those statements of support matter because of the basic fact that Democrats are not unanimously behind Emanuel as you would expect they’d be for a Presidential appointment of their party. No Democratic Senator has yet said they will vote no, but there has been a lot of pressure from progressive House Democrats – which may indicate that Senatorial pressure may soon come.

The Case For Confirmation of Rahm Emanuel

Sometimes, the case is as simple as it seems – he’s a Democratic appointment with some amount of bipartisan support. Democratic Senators getting behind their President’s choice would seem logical, and it might be that simple.

Joe Biden has gotten all but one of his first choice Cabinet nominees through, and in most cases with some number of Republican votes. The only one he didn’t get through was Neera Tanden for the Directorship of the Office of Management and Budget, but even there it was Joe Manchin, not the left, who shot down that nomination.

The left is trying to flex its leverage on the fight over the President’s legislative agenda, and not picking a fight with the President on this when the left needs him to arm twist House Democrats could be their strategic impulse.

The problem is, that’s assuming this fight happens this year, and that’s where the details of the market matters.

The Case To Not Confirm Rahm Emanuel By Dec. 31

The market isn’t, “Will Rahm Emanuel ever be ambassador to Japan?”

It’s “Will the Senate confirm him by Dec. 31?” That matters.

If you want to buy shares of No, you have two outs – he doesn’t have the votes, and the vote doesn’t happen this year. How likely is that?

Chuck Schumer gets to set the Senate schedule, and here is an incomplete list of priorities for him:

  • Negotiating with the House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill the Senate already passed
  • Negotiating with the House, his Senate caucus, and the White House on the bigger reconciliation package which is inexorably linked to the bipartisan bill
  • Putting a new voting rights package to the floor and making the GOP filibuster it, and then figuring out if there’s any way Manchin and Sinema will allow a filibuster carve-out to pass it when they inevitably do
  • Funding the government (again) and passing a raise to the debt ceiling (again)
  • Confirming as many administration officials and judges as possible.

All of that takes a lot of legislative time, especially with an opposition that is as recalcitrant to help speed that process up as the GOP under Mitch McConnell has shown themselves to be.

Why, if you’re Chuck Schumer and you face that mess of a legislative calendar, would your priority being an ambassadorship that will be contentious within the party? Schumer is also a Senator from New York, and most of the leading Emanuel detractors in the House are New York members whose support – or, at least, lack of opposition – he has steadfastly courted, given his desire to not face a competitive, serious primary in 2020.

Emanuel is a controversial figure because of the actions of the Chicago PD while he was mayor, and the way he covered up their misconduct. It is a fight to get Emanuel confirmed, and there’s less than two months, in reality, to do it.

Yes, we are two and a half months away from the end of the year, but the Senate won’t be working through Christmas if they can at any cost avoid it. The Senate will want to go home for the holidays as swiftly as possible, especially after the grueling fight that is seemingly inevitable about the debt ceiling in December.

The rest of this month – and probably a decent amount of November – will be spent on the dual spending bills that took up most of September too. After that, the push on voting rights is the next stated priority, and before too long we are right back where we started with the debt ceiling and government funding crises that the Democrats punted.

Schumer might put the Emanuel nomination to the floor at some point, and he might win that vote, but there’s no guarantee even if that happens that it’ll happen this year. Could Emanuel lose a floor vote?

I mean, if he makes it to the floor he probably has the votes, but the Tanden nomination is instructive here – Manchin was the one who said no to Tanden publicly, but it would represent an act of political naivety to think he was the only one who was potentially willing to vote no.

There are three confirmed GOP Yes votes. So the question is whether Democrats could find four No votes, and the answer’s pretty easily yes. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Ed Markey all represent highly plausible No votes, and then the question is whether any of the other 47 Senators find his controversial tenure enough to vote him down – and for blue-state Senators more scared of a primary from their left, courting controversy with your base may be a bold decision that they don’t want to take.

Final Thoughts

Between the likelihood this gets punted to 2022 and the chance Rahm doesn’t have the votes, it’s much more likely than not Emanuel doesn’t get confirmed by Dec. 31. He might get confirmed that fast, but it’s highly unlikely – and for some reason, you can get better than even odds he won’t.

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