Lawmakers to vote tomorrow to advance Kahl's nomination

By Tony Bertuca / March 23, 2021 at 6:41 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee has confirmed it is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the nomination of Colin Kahl to become under secretary of defense for policy, despite broad Republican opposition.

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. Their opposition has focused on several of Kahl’s past tweets and policy statements, along with the role he played in the Obama administration’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

If Kahl’s nomination advances out of the committee, it will move to the full Senate. As Kahl’s nomination is likely to be opposed by all 50 Senate Republicans, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) could be the swing vote. If Manchin, who has yet to offer public support for Kahl, votes in favor of his nomination, Vice President Harris could then cast a tie-breaking vote to send Kahl to the Pentagon.

Manchin’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Inhofe said he doesn’t see Kahl as suited to the role.

“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.”

At present, the only Senate-confirmed officials at the Pentagon are Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

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

"The last few years have been pretty polarizing on social media. I am sure there are times that I got swept up in that," he 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 said little or claimed not to read the infamously volatile Twitter feed of former President Trump, who was banned by the social media platform in January following a riot at the Capitol.

But Republicans likened Kahl's nomination to that of Anthony Tata, whom Trump nominated to be Pentagon policy chief. His nomination was withdrawn amid bipartisan concerns over past tweets he made about Muslims, conspiracy theories and former President Obama. Trump eventually named Tata acting DOD policy chief.