Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) heaped praise on U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday, suggesting her "moral clarity" is a high standard leaders at the State Department should strive to reach.
Menendez lauded Haley as a model to emulate during Deputy Secretary of State nominee John Sullivan's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The New Jersey Democrat was discussing the importance of human rights and democracy promotion to American foreign policy.
"We need someone who has the moral clarity that Nikki Haley has," Menendez said, explaining that he voted to confirm Haley despite her lack of foreign policy experience.
"I think she's outstanding," Menendez said of Haley. "She has moral clarity, and that moral clarity can ultimately drive us in the right direction."
"And I hope that you have that moral clarity as the no. 2 person at the State Department," Menendez said to Sullivan.
Since coming to the U.N., Haley has emphasized the importance of human rights and made tough statements regarding anti-Israel bias at the international body. For example, Haley criticized U.N. resolutions as "outrageously biased" against Israel.
"It is the U.N.'s anti-Israel bias that is long overdue for change," Haley said after a U.N. Security Council meeting in February.
Menendez was not the only one to notice Haley's work as an ambassador in recent days. Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked praised Haley on Sunday for combatting the U.N.'s antagonism towards the Jewish state.
"Israel is not the United Nations' punching bag anymore," Shaked said during the Jerusalem Post's annual conference in New York. "We can see the change with Nikki Haley as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations … Israelis finally feel that we have someone leading the fight for justice and morality in a place without it. We feel like our voice will finally be heard in the halls of the General Assembly."
During Tuesday's confirmation hearing, Menendez also expressed his concern about a recent statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that seemed to prioritize economic and security interests over concerns about human rights.
"If we condition too heavily that others must adopt this value that we've come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests," Tillerson said last week.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said Tillerson's comments sent a "dangerous" to human rights violators.
"Most of us who pay attention to foreign policy recognize that leading with our values, including prioritizing human rights in our diplomacy, is a critical part of promoting our national security," McCain said. "So I'm really concerned about Secretary Tillerson's comments."
Menendez agreed with McCain, who targeted Tillerson's comments in a New York Times op-ed published Monday.
"In a recent address to State Department employees, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said conditioning our foreign policy too heavily on values creates obstacles to advance our national interests," McCain wrote. "With those words, Secretary Tillerson sent a message to oppressed people everywhere: Don't look to the United States for hope."
Haley, despite the recent praise, has come under stricter oversight from the State Department, which reportedly wants to ensure her public remarks are first cleared with Washington.