Senate panel advances Trump's nominees to lead Air Force, Army

Senate panel advances Trump's nominees to lead Air Force, Army
© Greg Nash

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE’s nominees to be the top civilians leading the Air Force and Army.

The committee on Wednesday advanced by voice vote Barbara Barrett to be Air Force secretary and Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe MORE to be Army secretary, sending them to the full Senate for a vote less than a week after their confirmation hearing.

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The Air Force has been without a Senate-confirmed secretary since the end of May when former Secretary Heather Wilson stepped down to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Wilson’s relationship with Trump soured over his Space Force proposal. At her confirmation hearing, Barrett pledged to prioritize setting up a Space Force, a separate military branch for space that first must get congressional approval.

Barrett’s résumé includes past stints as chairwoman of the Aerospace Corporation, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and ambassador to Finland.

McCarthy, meanwhile, has served as under secretary of the Army since 2017. The military branch's top civilian post has been vacant since former Army Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperDemocrats want Mulvaney to testify in Trump impeachment probe Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs MORE was confirmed to lead the Pentagon in July.

At Barrett and McCarthy’s confirmation hearing, Democrats grilled them on Trump’s recent move to take $3.6 billion from military construction projects and use it for his proposed border wall.

Barrett told Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Commerce Department to develop stats on income inequality Senators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games MORE (D-N.M.) that she believes “the priority remains very high” for constructing a new building at an MQ-9 Reaper drone training facility at Holloman Air Force Base despite $85 million being “deferred” for the wall.

McCarthy, meanwhile, pledged to get senators the legal opinion on the use of military construction funds for the border wall.

Barrett was also pressed on airmen staying at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland during refueling stops. Barrett pledged to “take a look” at the issue, but would not commit to issuing a servicewide policy banning stays at Trump properties.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who grilled Barrett on the Turnberry issue, said later Wednesday he opposes Barrett's confirmation.

"Our military budget is not President Trump's personal piggy bank," Blumenthal said in a statement. "Ambassador Barrett refused to provide a clear commitment to ending unnecessary Air Force spending at President Trump's lavish Scottish hotel. This in unacceptable, especially for a service secretary in an administration run by Grifter-in-Chief Donald Trump."

Updated at 2:33 p.m.