Defense

Pentagon chief to press for Manchin’s support on key nominee

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The Pentagon on Tuesday confirmed that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will reach out to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a tiebreaker vote Democrats need to confirm Colin Kahl, President Biden’s nominee for Pentagon policy chief.

“The secretary is planning to have a conversation with Sen. Manchin today. I’m not going to … talk about the details of conversations between the secretary and individual members of Congress,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon.

Kirby said he did not know of “any other discussions” Austin might have with other members of Congress.

Republican senators last week during Kahl’s nomination hearing tore into him over his past Twitter activity, which in recent years was critical of the Trump administration.

Politico first reported that the administration was seeking Manchin’s support, with the White House directing Austin to reach out to the West Virginia Democrat.  

Manchin has not publicly commented on Kahl’s nomination and did not attend his confirmation hearing last week. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Manchin’s vote is seen as critical in confirming Kahl to the third-most powerful civilian role at the Pentagon. If he does not support the nominee, the administration would need a Republican senator to vote for Kahl in the 50-50 Senate.

But he was the lone Democrat to oppose Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Manchin pulled his support over past inflammatory tweets she had written about Republicans and progressive Democrats alike in her previous role heading the Center for American Progress think tank.

Tanden later withdrew her nomination after concerns she did not have enough votes to be confirmed.

Republican senators also lambasted Kahl over his past Twitter activity.

“What concerns me here is that hyperpartisanship, especially in regards to our national security, is inappropriate for the position of under secretary of Defense for policy,” said Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.). “Unfortunately, in the past, in many cases, your public policy positions have been couched in partisan politics rather than fact-based analysis.”

Kahl during the hearing apologized for the “disrespectful” language in his tweets, saying he got “swept up” in a polarizing online environment during the Trump administration.

“There were a number of positions that President Trump took that I strongly opposed. I think the language that I used in opposing those was sometimes disrespectful, and for that I apologize,” he said. 

The Pentagon, meanwhile, held fast to the nomination, stressing that Austin “looks forward to having Dr. Kahl installed as the under secretary of Defense for policy” and “urges the Senate to give him a vote so we can get him on board,” according to Kirby.

“I think Mr. Kahl also spoke pretty eloquently about his Twitter habits in his hearing and I think made clear his respect for members of Congress of both parties and spoke to his Twitter activity, and I think that I’ll leave it there,” he said. 

Tags Colin Kahl Defense Department Donald Trump Jim Inhofe Joe Biden Joe Manchin Lloyd Austin Neera Tanden Pentagon Twitter
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