WASHINGTON — Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and a longtime friend of President Biden, reportedly is under consideration to be US ambassador to Austria.
Kennedy, 67, a senior counsel at the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, has been given the required diplomatic approval by the office of Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, the Austria Press Agency reported Tuesday. The nation’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, called the choice of Kennedy an “honor” for Austria, according to the Associated Press.
While Austrian officials are speaking about the nomination as a fait accompli, the White House declined to comment on whether she would be tapped for the role on Wednesday. Kennedy did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Ambassador picks must be confirmed by the Senate.
The nomination would add to a history of diplomatic posts for the Kennedys, starting with family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who served as ambassador to the United Kingdom.
“The legacy speaks for itself — it’s another chapter in the Kennedy story,” said former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, a Republican who served as ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa during the Trump administration.
But “even without the connections, she would be more than qualified on her own merits,” he said of Kennedy. Brown predicted that Kennedy would make it through the Senate confirmation process “with flying colors” and excel in the role if nominated.
“She certainly has the ability to get the job done without even blinking,” he added.
Biden had a close relationship with Edward Kennedy, with whom he served in the Senate for 36 years. “I wouldn’t be a United States senator were it not for Teddy Kennedy,” Biden said in a eulogy at a 2009 memorial service for him.
Biden credited his victory in his first Senate race in 1972 to a last-minute campaign appearance by Kennedy. And after an auto accident killed Biden’s wife and young daughter a few weeks later, Kennedy convinced him not to give up his Senate seat and became a mentor in Washington.
“He sort of took on the role of being my older brother. He just was there all the time,” Biden said in the eulogy. He concluded by saying the Kennedy family “possesses more talent, more commitment, more grit, more grace than any family I’ve ever seen.”
Victoria “Vicki” Reggie married Kennedy in 1992, the second marriage for both of them. She was raised in Crowley, La., as part of a family that was influential in Democratic politics. After graduating from Tulane Law School she worked as an attorney in Chicago and then Washington, D.C., where she met Kennedy.
Vicki Kennedy has maintained a warm relationship with Biden, who she endorsed for president just before the Massachusetts primary in March 2020.
When Biden’s son Beau died in 2015, she wrote to Biden and enclosed a letter that Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., had written to a friend about losing his son during World War II. Its message: To grieve a lost loved one, devote your life to the pursuits that would have mattered most to that person.
Ted Kennedy had often reread the message in difficult moments, and it was one of the most treasured condolences Biden received after losing his son, he told the Globe in 2017. He said at the time he thought of Vicki “like a sister.”
“I think that Vicki’s advice to me when she sent that letter is the explanation for why she’s doing what she’s doing,” Biden said of Kennedy. “There is solace and strength and a sense of peace that comes with continuing to do what Teddy would be doing today.”
After her husband’s death, she focused on shaping the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, a Boston civic education organization that houses a full-scale replica of the US Senate. She has said over the years that she was not interested in running for office. Instead, she has dedicated herself to civic engagement alongside her work as a lawyer, serving on the boards of charities. In 2014, President Barack Obama nominated her to serve on the board of governors for the US Postal Service but she never received a confirmation vote amid a broader dispute in the Senate over the makeup of the board.
In 2015, Kennedy returned to her legal career after a 20-year hiatus, working in the corporate practice group of Greenberg Traurig and splitting time between its Boston and Washington offices.
Alan Solomont, a former ambassador to Spain and Andorra and who recently served as an administrator at Tufts University, said she would be an excellent candidate for ambassador to Austria.
“She brings her own charm and charisma,” Solomont said. Not to mention, he added, “the Kennedy name is still magical around the world.”
If tapped, Kennedy won’t be the first Massachusetts figure to take on an ambassador role. In June, Biden nominated the second-ranking Democrat in the Massachusetts House, Claire Cronin, to be ambassador to Ireland.