Mark Green’s nomination for Army secretary is going downhill fast, with comments from his past fomenting opposition to him.
Green has drawn fire for his remarks on LGBT people, Islam, Hispanics, the Second Amendment and creationism. More than a half-dozen advocacy groups have decried his nomination, and even transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner has criticized him.
The ground got shaky for Green when 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.) on Tuesday said that he has concerns with the nomination — and that he’s heard similar sentiments from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Asked Tuesday night if he’s concerned about Green’s prospects, McCain told reporters, “Of course.”
“But as I’ve said several times, the guy, if he wants a hearing and the president wants him to have a hearing, we should have a hearing,” he added.
Advocacy groups are confident some Republicans will vote against confirming Green, if he makes it that far.
“I feel quite confident we have a lot of ‘no’ votes against him,” said David Stacy, government affairs director at the Human Rights Campaign. “I can’t count to 51 yet. People want to be fair to the nominee and are looking at his record. I think Republicans want to be very thoughtful and careful about making sure they give him as fair a shot as possible. But we will have Republican votes against him.”
Green’s nomination, which the White House announced last month, has yet to officially be sent to the Senate. He was chosen after Trump’s first nominee for Army secretary, Vincent Viola, dropped out in February due to potential business conflicts.
Most senators continue to refrain from giving a definitive yes or no on Green, saying they have yet to meet him or are waiting for his confirmation hearing to make a judgment.
But the floodgates appeared to open Wednesday for Democrats, with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats wrangle to keep climate priorities in spending bill Coons says White House could impose border fee for carbon-intensive products The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The omicron threat and Biden's plan to beat it MORE (D-N.Y.) announcing his opposition to Green and urging others to do the same.
“While I deeply appreciate and applaud his record of service to this nation, I feel that Mr. Green’s intolerant, extreme and deeply disturbing views, and disparaging comments toward the LGBTQ community, Muslims, Latinos and other groups of Americans — all of whom play important roles in the Army and in our country — are dangerous to morale, cohesion and readiness of our Armed Services and the fabric of America,” Schumer said in a statement Wednesday.
“I will oppose Mr. Green’s nomination and urge all my colleagues — Republicans and Democrats alike — in the Senate to do so as well.”
A Senate staff member close to the process said there is concern about re-litigating long-settled military issues, such as the 2010 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law barring LGBT people from serving openly in the military.
“The sentiment is that the Army has enough challenges going forward that we should not be litigating social issues,” the staffer said. “The fact that he’s said these things [concerning the LBGT community] means a good portion of his hearing would be focused on issues that have already been litigated six, seven years ago.
“I think we need to be forward-looking on what we need to do to support the Army rather than refighting on these issues, at least at far as Congress is concerned.”
The controversy over Green began with his voting record as a Tennessee state senator on LBGT issues but has quickly spread to other issues.
Green has said that “transgender is a disease” and cited a Bible verse about “crushing evil” to explain why he opposes allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.
He’s also said public schools that teach the pillars of Islam are “over the top and we will not tolerate that in this state.” In a book on his interrogation of Saddam Hussein, Green described high-value targets in Iraq as smelling like “curry mixed with sweat.”
Green has speculated that a rise in Hispanics registering to vote in his state was due to them “being bussed here probably.”
At a pro-gun rights rally in 2013, he said: “The citizenry should be allowed to maintain whatever weapon the federal government has. If they can have an aircraft carrier, I ought to be able to have an aircraft carrier.”
And in a 2015 speech at a church in Cincinnati, Green contended that the laws of thermodynamics disprove evolution, saying that a rusting lawnmower left outside for a hundred years shows why living beings couldn’t have evolved over billions of years.
Green has defended himself by saying liberals are twisting his words and attacking him for his religion.
“The liberal left has cut and spliced my words about terrorism and [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] blatantly falsifying what I’ve said,” Green said in a Facebook post last week. “I believe that every American has a right to defend their country regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. It’s the radical left that won’t allow the latter.”
Green’s nomination has generated opposition from the Human Rights Campaign, the American Military Partner Association, Outserve-SLDN, the Palm Center, GLAAD, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Equality California, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Muslim Advocates.
House members have also gotten unusually involved with a process on which they have no vote, with Democrats and Republicans sending the Senate dueling letters of opposition and support for Green.
Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-gay rights group, is waiting for Green’s hearing and could come around to him if he denounces his past statements and makes explicit assurances on protecting LGBT troops, said Gregory Angelo, the group’s president.
But Angelo also pledged to launch a campaign against him should his hearing not go that way.
“The level of contention here shows there may well be a ceiling for how high one can rise in national politics if you choose to demonize LGBT people in words, actions and legislation,” Angelo said. “It would be premature to start a campaign against him now, but if he does receive a hearing and if he does double down, we would move against him.”
Ellen Mitchell contributed.