McCain places hold on two Obama defense nominees

Sen. John McCain has placed a hold on two of President Obama's nominees for top Pentagon jobs, after he said they gave unsatisfactory answers during their confirmation hearings Tuesday. 

McCain placed a hold on Bob Work, Obama's nominee for deputy defense secretary, after he said the littoral combat ship program he had overseen while serving as under secretary of the Navy "is on solid ground and is meeting its cost targets." 

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The 2015 defense budget request proposes cutting the purchase of 52 littoral combat ships to only 32 ships, and calls for future alternatives to the ship. 

"I think this is very normal with Navy ship building," Work said, adding that a modified littoral combat ship model could be one of the alternatives. 

"You think it's normal?" McCain asked. "The cost overruns associated with this ship, the fact that we don't even know what the mission is...this whole idea of moving different modules off and on. You disagree with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) statement at the cost overruns? This is normal?" 

Work said cost overruns for the ship program occurred before he served as undersecretary from May 2009 through March 2013, and that he had not read the 2013 GAO report.  

McCain said he was "stunned" that Work hadn't read the report. 

"I think that Robert Work is derelict in his duties when he was the guy in charge of the littoral combat ship program and he doesn't even know about a GAO assessment of it, which by the way, was devastating," McCain told the Hill. 

McCain also placed a hold on Christine Wormuth, Obama's nominee for defense under secretary for policy, after she repeatedly declined to say whether the threat from Al Qaeda was receding or growing. 

"Is it growing or is it receding?" McCain asked. 

"Senator, I would describe it as a persistent threat," she answered. 

After being questioned a third time, she said elements of the threat posted by Al Qaeda are growing. One example was Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, she said, which is of "considerable concern" to the U.S.

"Well, obviously, you don't agree with the map that Senator [Jim] Inhofe just put up because it's spreading all over Africa, Ms. Wormuth, and anybody who doesn't know that has either been somewhere else or not knowing what's going on in the world," McCain said. 

The Arizona Republican said the holds were placed partly as a symbolic protest to rule changes by Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that allow for nominees to skip committee confirmation and head straight to a Democrat-controlled Senate for a simple majority vote, referred to as the "nuclear option." 

"It's not going to do anything because of the nuclear option but I'm still going to hold them and I'm going to talk about them on the floor of the Senate," McCain said.

"They can nominate any bozo they want, the way it is now. I mean, look at the ambassador nominees. People who have never been in the country are clueless who are now going to be made ambassadors," McCain said. 

"The nuclear option has deprived the minority in the United States Senate from the right to advise and consent. That's what happened," he said. "So now we will see less and less qualified people nominated by the President of the United States."