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Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra seeks to become ambassador to the Netherlands

September 29, 2017 GMT

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week during confirmation hearings about his nomination as the next ambassador to the Netherlands, has bipartisan support among Michigan’s legislators. Hoekstra was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as the ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and West Michigan native Richard Grenell was nominated to be the ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany.

“I want to congratulate former Congressman Pete Hoekstra and West Michigan native Richard Grenell on their successful confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said Wednesday. “For the president to nominate two individuals with West Michigan ties for ambassadorships in Europe speaks volumes. I look forward to seeing both of these nominees voted out of committee and then confirmed by the full Senate.”

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U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, yesterday introduced Hoekstra at his confirmation hearing.

Following consideration by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Hoekstra’s nomination will be voted on by the full Senate.

“As former Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg famously said: ‘Politics stops at the water’s edge,’” said Stabenow. “And it also stops at the shores of our Great Lakes. I was pleased to introduce my former Michigan colleague, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, at his confirmation hearing. While Pete and I don’t always agree, it is good for our state and good for our country to have him serving in this prominent international role. I look forward to supporting his nomination.”

Hoekstra served in the United States Congress for 18 years, representing Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District from 1993 to 2011.

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During his time in Congress, Hoekstra served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2004 to 2007 and as the ranking Republican on the committee until 2011.

Hoekstra also served as co-chair of the Dutch Caucus, and specialized in the public policy areas of national security, education, manufacturing, and the Great Lakes.

During his testimony this week, Hoekstra, who was born in Holland before his family emigrated to America and lived in Holland, Michigan, called the Dutch one of America’s greatest allies.

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“It’s hard to find an ally that’s been more dedicated and consistent than what the Dutch have been,” said Hoekstra, 63, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“If provided with the opportunity, it will be my job to manage that relationship and leave it stronger and better than what we have inherited.”

Hoekstra retired from Congress in 2011 after 18 years and last year co-chaired President Donald Trump’s campaign in Michigan.

Under questioning, Hoekstra said his top mission as ambassador would be making sure the post in the Hague has an effective, functioning team to execute priorities, including national security and economic cooperation with the Netherlands.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, pointed out that the Netherlands has some of the most progressive laws on rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people in the world. He asked Hoekstra to address concerns about sending an ambassador there with diverging views.

“The Dutch and the United States share a tradition of defending human rights — the value, the dignity of every individual,” Hoekstra said.

“So, while my personal views may differ from where the Dutch have moved in terms of their public policy, the bottom line is my personal respect and value that I have for their country. I will respect their decisions.”

Hoekstra is a native-born Dutchman who immigrated with his parents to the United States at age 3.

His parents were liberated by U.S. and Canadian forces during World War II, so they had “a fondness and appreciation for America,” and took a “leap of faith” to move their three children there in 1956, he said.

They settled in Holland, Michigan, where his father ran a small bakery and his mother was a homemaker.

“America was all that they had hoped for, and for all of us it has become our home,” Hoekstra said. “The opportunity to go back and represent the United States is a humbling opportunity.”

He noted that the Netherlands was the second country to recognize the United States in 1782 after it gained independence from Britain and has remained a strong military ally.

Today, the Dutch are among the top foreign investors in the United States, which has a trade surplus with the Netherlands of roughly $24 billion, he said. The Netherlands is also a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.

“This is truly a unique and unbroken relationship,” Hoekstra said.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Hoekstra was introduced by Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing, whose seat he unsuccessfully challenged in 2012. She praised Hoekstra’s nomination, saying it is “a job he was born to do.”

“There are few people more suited to serve as ambassador to the Netherlands than Pete Hoekstra,” she said.

Hoekstra thanked Stabenow for her support, as well as that of Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.

“As she said, we know that politics stops at the water’s edge, whether that’s Lake Michigan or the Atlantic,” Hoekstra said. “When we disagreed, it was never on a personal basis. We always remained friends and respected each other.”

Since leaving Congress, Hoekstra has lobbied for the firms Greenberg Traurig and Dickstein Shapiro and started his own firm, Hoekstra Global Strategies.

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