Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight

Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight
© Courtesy of Mark Green

President Trump is facing a tough confirmation battle in the Senate over Mark Green, his nominee for Army secretary.

Liberal groups are firing up opposition to Green, who has said that “transgender is a disease” and that “armed citizens” should fight against efforts to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.

The remarks could make supporting Green tough for centrist Democrats and Republicans alike.

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David Stacy, government affairs director at the Human Rights Campaign, said Trump “couldn’t have picked a worse nominee to pick a fight with Congress.” His group started outreach to Capitol Hill on Friday afternoon and has heard a “high degree of concern” from Democrats and moderate Republicans.

The White House announced late Friday that Trump intends to nominate Green, a Tennessee state senator since 2013, to be the Army’s top civilian leader.

“Nobody’s committing their boss on a yes or no vote this early,” Stacy added in a Monday conference call with reporters. “The degree of engagement has been very high because of obvious things in his record.”

For now, moderate senators are reluctant to comment on the fresh nomination, even as LGBT groups are already ramping up pressure to vote against Green.

Spokesmen for Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Ohio), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Democrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure MORE (D-W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampJoe Manchin's secret Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Effective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests MORE (D-N.D.) declined to comment.

Spokespeople for Republican Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (Alaska) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDemocrat Jacky Rosen becomes 22nd senator to back bipartisan infrastructure deal 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 On The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare MORE (Nevada) and for Democratic Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySupreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Republicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin MORE (Ind.) did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Manchin, Heitkamp, Heller and Donnelly all face reelection in 2018 in states Trump won in the presidential election.

Republicans have generally united behind Trump’s nominees.

Portman and Heller have both voted for all of Trump’s nominees so far, while Collins has voted against two and Murkowski against one.

Democrats have opposed many of Trump’s nominees en masse, and there has been pressure on centrist Democrats to toe the party line.

Donnelly has voted against seven of Trump’s nominees, while Heitkamp has voted against six nominees and Manchin against three.

Heitkamp and Manchin both backed Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s recently confirmed nominee for the Supreme Court.

Green must first make it past the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is split between 14 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Donnelly is on the committee, and his vote could be key.

Complicating the fight is Green’s impressive Army record, which includes being the first person to interrogate former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein after he was captured.

Green’s nomination is also notable because of the official he would succeed: Eric Fanning, the first openly gay service secretary.

Fanning’s appointment was one of many milestones the LGBT community hailed during the Obama administration. “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which barred gay troops from serving openly, was repealed by Congress in 2010. And last summer, the Obama administration lifted the ban on transgender troops serving openly.

LGBT troops and their advocates were concerned immediately after the election that the Trump administration would roll back those changes. Their fears were assuaged during Defense Secretary James Mattis’s confirmation hearing, when he said he had no plans to do so.

Still, Mattis left the door open to changes if a service chief presents him with evidence the policies are having negative effects.

In the days since Green’s nomination, advocates have said that even if policies aren’t reversed, having someone with his record at the top of the Army sends the wrong message. Further, they said, Green could take steps to undermine the policies in the Army.

As a Tennessee state senator, Green has made numerous anti-LGBT statements and supported a number of anti-LGBT bills.

For example, in a speech at the Chattanooga Tea Party last year, he said that “transgender is a disease” and railed against former President Obama’s efforts to require public schools to let transgender children use the bathroom of their choice.

“We are back to where the country was at its beginning, and it’s the armed citizen who will defend this nation,” Green said. “And there’s something else that we’ve got to protect ourselves from, and it is an overreaching federal government. The notion that Mr. Obama thinks that he can tell the state of Tennessee who can go into a men’s bathroom or a women’s bathroom is absurd.”

In the same speech, he also advocated for “civil disobedience” in response to what a questioner described as the “tyrannical government.” Green used the hypothetical example of the governor of Tennessee denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

His state Senate record also includes supporting a bill that allows therapists to deny treatment to LGBT individuals on religious grounds. And he’s the sponsor of a bill that would prohibit action against a business for its internal personnel and benefits policies so long as those policies are already compliant with state law.

Tennessee law does not specifically bar discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity, and LGBT people say Green’s bill is meant to allow companies to discriminate against them.

LGBT groups are highlighting those examples and are promising to do a deeper dive into his record, including compiling video of his statements.

A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandTreat broadband as infrastructure and we have a chance to get it right House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors To make energy green, remove red tape MORE (D-N.Y.), a member of the Armed Services Committee who has voted against all but three Trump nominees who have come to the Senate floor, said she has “serious concerns” about Green’s record.

“Sen. Gillibrand has serious concerns about Mark Green, particularly his deeply troubling record of supporting policies that are discriminatory against the LGBTQ community,” said spokesman Marc Brumer. “She will look to hear these concerns addressed during his confirmation hearings.”

Supporters of Green, meanwhile, are highlighting his military record.

Green, a 1986 West Point graduate, served as a special operations flight surgeon. In 2003, he was the emergency physician during Operation Red Dawn, which captured Hussein.

He did three combat tours in the Middle East and received awards including the Bronze Star, the Air Medal and the Air Medal with "V" device for valor under heavy enemy fire.

Since ending his 20-year military career in 2006, he’s been involved with several military-focused charities, including Soldiers and Families Embraced and Reboot for Recovery.

Both senators from Green’s home state have given him praise, emphasizing his military record.

“As a West Point graduate and former military officer, Mark Green is well-suited to serve our nation as secretary of the Army,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) said in a statement Friday.

“This is a good opportunity for the rest of the country to benefit from Tennessean Mark Green’s leadership skills, military experience and dedication to service members,” Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.) said in his own statement Friday.

Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, an independent think tank that researches issues of gender and sexuality and has been active on the military’s LGBT policies, said a host of organizations are contacting senators about Green.

“I believe that a range of organization are reaching out to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to communicate how dangerous Mark Green is,” Belkin said. “I hope that senators would be as strong in their questioning of him as they were in questioning Secretary Mattis and [Air Force Secretary nominee] Heather Wilson.”