Kay Bailey Hutchison, the former Texas senator and La Marque native, was confirmed Thursday as the U.S. ambassador to NATO.
She was confirmed in one of the Senate’s last votes before the August recess. She was nominated for the position by President Donald Trump in June.
“Kay has always been known for tireless advocacy on behalf of Texans and her ability to work across the aisle to get things done,” said Sen. John Cornyn, who helped guide Hutchison’s confirmation through the Senate.
“She has the experience, determination and poise to strengthen our relationships on the world stage, and I’m confident she’ll make Texas — and our country — proud,” Cornyn said.
NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a group of 29 countries organized in 1949 under a pact that promises a collective defense when one of the member countries is attacked by another group. It includes the United States, France and the United Kingdom.
Officially, Hutchison’s title is “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.” The latter term refers to a person who has full powers as a government representative.
She will represent the United States at the NATO headquarters in Belgium.
As ambassador, Hutchison will have to deal with an organization that has been criticized by Trump.
During his campaign, Trump suggested that NATO members were not spending enough of their national budgets might not be able to rely on U.S. support if they were attacked. NATO member countries are required to spend 2 percent of their budgets on defense. Some countries do not commit that much, which has drawn criticism from not only Trump, but former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
Trump refused to answer questions in May about whether the United States was committed to Article 5, the mutual defense promise, unnerving some observers. In June, he said the United States was committed to the promise.
During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 20, Hutchison said she agreed with Trump’s stance on allied investments.
“Allies need to meet this commitment because it is necessary for their security,” she said, later adding that the United States is stronger with NATO allies than it is without them.
“The cost of our collective defense will not rest unfairly on the shoulders of the American taxpayers,” she said.
Hutchison also said Congress was correct to increase sanctions against Russia, which is not a NATO ally. Trump did not support the sanctions but signed a bill approving them this week. After signing the bill, Trump blamed Congress for harming relations with Russia.
Hutchison, 73, was born in Galveston and grew up in La Marque. She is a graduate of La Marque High School.
She served 20 years in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2003.
Before her political career began, she was correspondent for KPRC-TV in Houston. She served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1972 to 1976.
She now lives in Dallas.
La Marque Mayor Bobby Hocking said Thursday that Hutchison was one of the city’s most famous citizens. The city is working on plans to rename a street after her and to honor her some way in the city’s downtown.
“We’re very proud of what she has done in her career,” Hocking said.