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McCain: Senate to consider Defense pick next month

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on President Obama’s nominee to lead the Pentagon next month, according to Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainChoking — not cheating — was Trump's undoing Gabby Giffords congratulates Mark Kelly with throwback photo of her own swearing-in McConnell in tough position as House eyes earmark return MORE (R-Ariz.).

“January, absolutely,” McCain, the incoming chairman of the powerful committee, told reporters Monday night.

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He said he did not have exact dates picked out for Ashton Carter’s nomination, but “obviously, we’d want to have it as early as possible.”

Republicans, including McCain, have generally praised the nomination of Carter, who has held a number of Defense Department positions and has been confirmed by the Senate on previous occasions. He would replace Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelFormer Republican national security officials demand GOP leaders denounce Trump's refusal to concede election Republicans who could serve in a Biden government How a tied Senate could lead a divided America MORE.

The GOP has indicated it intends to use Carter’s confirmation process as a platform to criticize Obama’s strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

McCain suggested a tough confirmation process but also signaled he hopes to move the nominee through his committee.

“We’ll grill him, and we’ll put his feet in the fire on a lot of issues, but you need to have a secretary of Defense that’s not a lame duck,” McCain said.

“Look how we perform as lame ducks. Jesus,” he then joked.