By Patrick OConnor - 05/10/06 12:00 AM EDT
A day after House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) questioned the prudence of allowing a military official to head the CIA, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden is qualified to head the overseas intelligence agency.
As House members, neither Boehner nor Hastert has a vote on Hayden’s confirmation — a fact the majority leader made clear while being pressed on the issue before finally giving nominal support to the White House nominee.
“The question in my mind is, is he qualified to lead this agency and to reform this agency to meet the threats that we now face and the threats we will face in the future?” Boehner said during his weekly press briefing. “And from where I sit, it appears that he is clearly qualified to do that.”
On Monday, Hastert told reporters in Illinois that he thought the move would give the Pentagon too much influence over U.S. intelligence, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) told an interviewer Sunday that he did not support the move.
Boehner was reluctant to comment on the White House move yesterday before finally relenting after repeated questions.
“I respect the president’s judgment,” Boehner said. “I also respect the Speaker’s judgment and Mr. Hoekstra’s judgment. And I think the concerns that they raised are likely to be fleshed out in the confirmation hearings over in the Senate.”
Boehner said he was close with recently deposed CIA Director Porter Goss, Hoekstra’s predecessor as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, but he would not speculate on whether or not loyalty to the former Florida Republican had spawned the outspoken opposition by the two usually loyal White House supporters.