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Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick

Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s nominee to be the top civilian leading the Air Force.

The Senate voted 85-7 to approve Barbara Barrett to be Air Force secretary.

“Ms. Barrett will serve as the civilian head at the Air Force at a pivotal time for our military,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges MORE (R-Okla.) said in a statement after the vote. “We need to modernize and innovate if we want to keep up with China and Russia, and this is especially important if we want to maintain air and space supremacy. At her nomination hearing, Ms. Barrett demonstrated she shares these priorities, understands the challenges we face and is prepared to tackle these issues head-on.”

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The opposing votes all came from Democrats: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage National Guard back inside Capitol after having been moved to parking garage Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE (Ill.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocrats torn on impeachment trial timing OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: 12 removed from National Guard inauguration security | Austin backs lifting transgender ban Biden Pentagon pick supports lifting transgender military ban MORE (N.Y.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden expands on Obama ethics pledge Democrats shoot down McConnell's filibuster gambit Biden signs executive order invoking 2-year lobbying ban for appointees MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyBiden expands on Obama ethics pledge Biden signs executive order invoking 2-year lobbying ban for appointees K Street navigates virtual inauguration week MORE (Ore.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSenate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls Smith wins reelection in Minnesota MORE (Minn.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury MORE (Ore.).

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

Barrett’s nomination slowed after being advanced out of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month after Blumenthal placed a hold on the nomination. Though she had her confirmation hearing and was advanced out of committee alongside Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyArmy falsely denied Flynn brother was in meeting on riot response: report OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: 12 removed from National Guard inauguration security | Austin backs lifting transgender ban Two Guard members removed from Biden inauguration over ties to far-right groups MORE, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop Harry Reid 'not particularly optimistic' Biden will push to eliminate filibuster Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) had to file a motion to invoke cloture on Barrett’s nomination rather than her being voice-voted like McCarthy.

Blumenthal has said he opposes Barrett because she would not commit to issuing a service-wide policy banning stays at Trump properties.

“Barrett’s repeated failure to commit to ending unnecessary/unlawful Air Force spending at Trump’s properties should be disqualifying,” Blumenthal tweeted Tuesday. “The military must stop subsidizing Trump hotels&golf clubs—making the Pentagon budget his personal piggy bank. Strong ethical standards are needed.”

Blumenthal grilled Barrett on the issue at her confirmation hearing amid congressional inquiries into airmen staying at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland during refueling stops. Barrett pledged to “take a look” at the issue, which did not go far enough for Blumenthal.

Barrett was also grilled by Democrats at her hearing 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 HeinrichBiden Intel chief nominee Avril Haines pledges public report on QAnon threat Overnight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Space Command to be located in Alabama 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.