Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, has tried to block Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., from visiting Honduras amid a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over policy toward the nation.
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is upset with DeMint for holding up confirmation of two officials President Obama has chosen for positions related to Latin America.
In response to Kerry’s move, DeMint asked Republican senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to help facilitate the fact-finding trip. McConnell asked the Defense Department to provide a plane for DeMint and received approval, according to DeMint’s office, The Washington Post reports.
The clash stems from Republican opposition to the White House stance on Honduras in the wake of a June military action that ousted President Manuel Zelaya and threw him out of the country.
The Obama administration and other governments in the region called the move a coup. The White House punished Honduras by ceasing aid payments and suspending U.S. visas for Honduran officials.
DeMint and several other conservative Republicans argue Zelaya's removal was legal because he tried to illegally extend his term in office. They also are critical of his ties to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
The nominations DeMint has delayed are Arturo Valenzuela as assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs and Thomas Shannon as ambassador to Brazil.
Kerry and DeMint criticized each other in dueling statements.
"These bullying tactics by the Obama administration and Senator Kerry must stop, and we must be allowed to get to the truth in Honduras," DeMint said.
Kerry responded: "Senator DeMint's statement wins an A for 'audacity.' Thanks to his intransigence, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee can't even hold hearings on our policy in Central and South America."
Meanwhile, the new government faces increasing pressure from political, civic and business leaders who originally supported Zelaya's ouster. They now favor plans to put him back in office with limited authority, The Associated Press reports.
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