Cassandra Butts, a close friend of President Barack Obama and his nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas, died in May after waiting 820 days for a confirmation vote.
Butts, who met the president when they were students at Harvard Law School, led a long career in public service, holding various posts on Capitol Hill and at the NAACP before joining the Obama administration. She died after a bout with acute leukemia, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
“To know Cassandra Butts was to know someone who made you want to be better,” Obama said in a statement. “Michelle and I were fortunate enough to count her as a friend for most of our adult lives.”
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni portrayed the late Butts as a defenseless victim of Washington partisanship — her nomination was placed on hold twice by Republican senators. Sen. Ted Cruz first placed a range of Department of State nominations on hold to protest the Iran deal, but eventually relented. Butts was then the subject of a hold from Sen. Tom Cotton, who placed holds on two other diplomatic nominees over the Secret Service’s failure to adequately address a major leak which compromised the private information of a member of Congress. (RELATED: Sen. Tom Cotton Goes Off On ‘Vulgar’ Harry Reid [VIDEO])
Bruni says Cotton met privately with Butts, where he explained that “blocking her was a way to inflict special pain on the president.” He went on to say a Cotton spokesperson did not contest Butts’ characterization of the meeting, but emphasized the great respect Cotton had for her.
“That’s Washington for you. Deeply admiring someone is supposed to be a consolation for — and not a contradiction of — using him or her as a weapon,” he wrote.
Cotton’s office does in fact contest Bruni’s presentation of events.
“But he’s disingenuous in his comment that he placed that hold to ‘inflict pain,'” Cotton’s communications director Caroline Rabbitt told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Senator Cotton never uttered those words to Ms. Butts and she never said anything of that nature to Senator Cotton.”
She went on to explain that the holds were placed on the diplomatic nominations because the Secret Service did not move quickly in remedying the Secret Service leak. She said Department of Homeland Security officials promised Cotton disciplinary action within weeks, but none came for several months.
“Once he saw incremental progress in the administration’s response, he began to release those holds one by one,” Rabbitt told theDCNF.
There has been no U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas since 2011.
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