President Biden got his choice of Colin Kahl for the Pentagon‘s top policy job on Tuesday after Republican absences on Capitol Hill meant he didn’t need to call on his vice president to break a looming confirmation vote tie in the Senate.
It was a change from March when the nomination failed to advance in the Senate Armed Services Committee after its thirteen Republicans voted in opposition. Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote to discharge the nomination from the committee after all 50 Senate Republicans voted against the motion.
In a completely party-line vote, Mr. Kahl‘s nomination was passed 49-45.
On Tuesday, Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota confirmed that he would not be in Washington during the vote owing to his mother’s recent death. Senator Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican, also was reportedly back in his home state on Tuesday because of a family emergency.
Mr. Kahl was national security advisor to then-Vice President Biden during the Obama administration and will now be undersecretary of defense for policy, one of the top three civilian jobs at the Pentagon. He will be responsible for strategy, missile defense and nuclear deterrence and multilateral security cooperation among other issues.
“He’s an eminently qualified professional with significant national security bona fides,” Mr. Kirby said Tuesday. “He’s not an individual who let his knowledge of the world around us and national security issues lapse in the time that he wasn’t in government.”
His vote has been the most contentious of the Biden Pentagon nominees. Moderate GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine,, crossed the aisle to support the nomination of President Biden‘s pick of Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services, but she stayed within the Republican ranks to vote against Mr. Kahl.
Republicans in the Senate said Mr. Kahl, a prolific Twitter poster who regularly attacked former President Trump, lacked the temperament for the critical position. While national security has often been considered a bipartisan priority, even in Congress, the GOP has been unified in their opposition to him over a variety of positions, including his vocal support of the Iran nuclear deal.
“Dr. Kahl‘s tweets also show a history of volatile behavior. It goes further than just being highly partisan and unbalanced. He is also a conspiracy theorist,” said Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Committee Chairman Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, said Mr. Kahl‘s nomination signaled President Biden‘s “clear commitment to upholding civilian control of the military and restoring a Pentagon that had been hollowed out and politicized by the previous administration.”
“Colin Kahl is a Middle East expert with deep national security and Department of Defense experience,” he said.
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