Clapper nomination for intel director passes in departing Senate

The Senate unanimously approved the nomination of retired Gen. James Clapper as Director of National Intelligence late Thursday just before adjourning for a five-week recess.

Clapper’s nomination was approved by unanimous consent, which avoided a roll call vote on the floor, and was somewhat anti-climactic. Most senators had already left town hours before, after the 3:30 p.m. vote that confirmed Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

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The approval came in a wave of 51 nominations that received unanimous consent, including three district judges and one circuit court judge. The other approvals were for ambassadorships and military promotions.

The nominations included Gen. James Mattis, who was recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to take over from Gen. David Petraeus as commander of U.S. Central Command. Petraeus has replaced Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Nominations have been a sore spot between Democrats and Republicans during the 111th Congress, with Democrats accusing the GOP of unnecessary obstruction. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) chatted amicably after the nominations’ approval Thursday night, however, with Reid patting McConnell’s arm as the two parted on the Senate floor.

The Senate does not return until Monday, Sept. 13.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had placed a hold on Clapper’s nomination early in the week, but released it on Wednesday. McCain had wanted a classified report about the technology programs being used by the U.S. intelligence community, and released the hold after he received it.

McCain’s spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan, said the report "confirms Senator McCain’s longstanding concerns about the poor oversight and cost overruns in intelligence technology programs.”

Other Republicans also threatened to block Clapper’s nomination because they were demanding an administration report on the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.