Sen. Gillibrand wants McHugh hold lifted

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called on two Republican senators to lift a hold on Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), whom President Barack Obama nominated as Army secretary. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called on two Republican senators to lift a hold on Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), whom President Barack Obama nominated as Army secretary.

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In a letter to two Kansas senators who have blocked McHugh’s confirmation, Gillibrand says it is imperative that the Army have a secretary at a time when two wars are being fought in the Middle East. She said Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) should withdraw their objections and allow McHugh a vote in the full Senate.

McHugh has been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, but Brownback and Roberts are protesting a reported Obama administration plan to move detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Fort Leavenworth in their home state, as the former is being shut down.

“We need Congressman McHugh’s leadership now more than ever,” Gillibrand said in a statement accompanying the letter. “Each day we hold up his confirmation and keep him from his new post, we compromise the safety and security of all Americans.

“I hope Sens. Brownback and Roberts will join me and the rest of our Senate colleagues to put the interests of our country before all else, and finally confirm Congressman McHugh to this critical post.”

Brownback and Roberts have been forthcoming about their hold, saying they want answers from the administration about its plans for Guantanamo detainees.

Their offices didn’t immediately comment on Gillibrand’s letter.

The situation has created a standoff between the Obama administration, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and the Kansas senators, and it is rife with politics.

Brownback is departing the Senate and is a near-lock to win his state’s governor’s race next year. But allowing Guantanamo detainees within Kansas's borders could be a public relations problem.

Gillibrand, meanwhile, has been receiving help from the Obama administration as she attempts to avoid a potentially difficult primary challenge. Reps. Steve Israel and Carolyn Maloney have both moved toward primary challenges, only to face tremendous pressure from the White House and Democratic establishment. Both wound up backing off their plans to challenge Gillibrand.

It now appears Gillbrand will have a relatively clear primary field, with no House members running against her.

Her complaint about the two wars being fought echoed Gates’s objection. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell has said Gates is “deeply disappointed” about the hold.

Gillibrand is also a fellow upstate member who served with McHugh on the House Armed Services Committee before being appointed to the Senate this year, and she attested to his qualifications.

“I have every confidence that he will bring the same leadership and determination to benefit all Army families across the United States,” Gillibrand wrote in her letter.