Kahl's nomination clears committee, sent to full Senate

By Tony Bertuca / March 24, 2021 at 12:55 PM

The embattled nomination of Colin Kahl to become under secretary of defense for policy has advanced beyond the Senate Armed Services Committee to the full Senate, where he will likely need Vice President Harris to cast a tie-breaking vote to send him to the Pentagon.

The committee voted 13-13 along party lines, meaning Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) can advance Kahl’s nomination using a procedural maneuver.

Kahl has the support of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), but his nomination is being opposed by Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and other Republicans, who have criticized Kahl's past tweets and policy statements, as well as the role he played in the Obama administration's 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Inhofe has said he does not think Kahl will get any Republican votes.

If Kahl's nomination is opposed by all 50 Senate Republicans, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) could be the swing vote.

Manchin, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted to advance Kahl's nomination to the full Senate. If Manchin supports Kahl's nomination on the floor, Harris could cast the tie-breaking vote.

Inhofe laid out his opposition to Kahl in a statement yesterday.

"This is the number-three position at the Pentagon -- and the policy role is currently even more important because the United States is facing more threats than ever before," Inhofe said. "This position demands bipartisanship, even temperament and good policy judgment -- characteristics I don't believe Dr. Kahl has demonstrated."

Kahl has pledged to be "nonpartisan," if confirmed, and has apologized for past tweets that may have been "disrespectful," including one in which he called the GOP "the party of ethnic cleansing."

Kahl has also been criticized for tweeting "we are all going to die" following the naming of John Bolton as former President Trump's national security adviser.

"The last few years have been pretty polarizing on social media. I am sure there are times that I got swept up in that," Kahl said during his nomination hearing. "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."

During the hearing, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said Republicans' remarks about Kahl's past tweets are "pretty rich" in that GOP lawmakers often declined to comment on or claimed not to read the Twitter feed of Trump, who was banned by the social media platform in January following a violent riot at the Capitol.

At present, the only Senate-confirmed officials at the Pentagon are Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, both of whom were confirmed with overwhelming bipartisan votes.