Senate panel to vote on Dempsey Joint Chiefs confirmation next week

After Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) short-lived threat to block the confirmation of Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Senate Armed Services Committee is moving forward with a vote next week.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) announced Thursday that the panel would vote on Dempsey’s confirmation next week, after Dempsey answered a list of 11 questions McCain and Levin sent him last week.

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The senators had asked for Dempsey’s assessment and opinion on potential U.S. military action in Syria — stemming from the dispute that prompted McCain’s threat to hold Dempsey’s confirmation last week.

McCain had blasted Dempsey at his confirmation hearing last week when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs would not give his opinion on whether the cost of U.S. military action was worse than doing nothing in the two-year civil war.

McCain and Levin included a question in their follow up letter essentially asking for Dempsey’s personal opinion. But Levin said Thursday that Dempsey had responded to the letter with a classified assessment.

At the hearing, Dempsey said it was inappropriate for him to publicly give his opinion while the issue was being deliberated within the administration.

Dempsey did provide an unclassified assessment to Levin on Monday on the costs and benefits of potential military options in Syria, which was slammed by McCain as “beyond anything that any rational military thinker that I know would ever contemplate.”

Nevertheless, McCain said Tuesday that he was not going to hold up Dempsey’s confirmation because he said the president has the right to choose his team.