Senate panel approves Trump's Air Force secretary pick

Senate panel approves Trump's Air Force secretary pick
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday approved former New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson (R) to serve as secretary of the Air Force.

Senators voted 22-5 following an executive session to approve Wilson to serve as the top civilian official in the Air Force, sending her nomination to the full Senate.

Wilson is expected to easily win confirmation after senators questioned her last week on ethics issues related to her time as a defense industry consultant with a Lockheed Martin subsidiary.

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Despite the hard line of questioning, lawmakers largely praised her nomination.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.) had told reporters he was satisfied with the answers to the questions senators had asked on her ethics issues.

"I saw no evidence that she violated ethics,” McCain said. “I asked her those questions from the beginning of the hearing and got satisfactory answers, at least they satisfied me."

Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Senate punts on defense bill Warren calls for Senate probe of 2019 Syrian airstrike that killed dozens of civilians MORE (R.I), the top Democrat on the committee, was among those who voted against Wilson's nomination. He noted her "impressive resume" but called her answers in last week's confirmation hearing "incomplete and unsatisfactory," adding that "she is the wrong person for this job."

"I have serious concerns about her involvement in directly contacting a sitting U.S. attorney about pending cases and her post-government actions as a contracting consultant for Heather Wilson and Company, LLC," Reed said in a statement.

President Trump named Wilson for the post in January. She would become the only service secretary in place for the military branches, relinquishing her role as president at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Trump is expected this week to name new secretaries for both the Army and Navy. He is expected to tap former Army lieutenant colonel and Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green (R) for the Army and investment banker and former Marine aviator Richard V. Spencer for the Navy.

Army secretary nominee Vincent Viola and Navy secretary nominee Philip Bilden both withdrew from consideration in February. 

Updated: 4:50 p.m.