The U.S. has an ambassador to Norway again for the first time in 869 days – and that person is from Minnesota.
Samuel D. Heins, described by the State Department as a "distinguished lawyer and human rights advocate," was confirmed for the role by the U.S. Senate Friday.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar shared the news on Facebook – and also mentioned Azita Raji, a California investment banker and philanthropist, who was confirmed as ambassador to Sweden.
Klobuchar played a key role in getting Heins confirmed, as Roll Call explains:
Texas Sen. and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz had blocked their confirmation since last summer, a protest over the Iran nuclear agreement. That prompted Klobuchar, a Democrat, to take the floor multiple times recently to push for an end to the stoppage, according to Roll Call.
“Perhaps people don’t understand the importance of these nations because they just think these people wear sweaters all the time,” she said, according to the New York Times. “I don’t know what they think of Norway and Sweden, but, in fact, Senator Cruz should understand that they are two of our best allies.”
Of course, that doesn't get us to 869 days. As MinnPost explains, George Tsunis had been nominated by President Barack Obama for the role back in September of 2013, Yahoo reported. But he withdrew his name the next year after it came out he had never even been to Norway, and Democrats protested they would not vote for him because he wasn't qualified, NPR said.
Heins was nominated in May of 2015.
He received his B.A. from the University of Minnesota, and went on to become a successful attorney, as well as "one of the state’s most dedicated champions of international human rights," according to a U of M bio.
He co-founded The Advocates for Human Rights and helped establish the Center for Victims of Torture. Heins has also been a longtime advocate of the Human Rights Center at the Law School, the university says.
U.S. ambassadors are nominated by the president, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.