Politics Senate confirms Pentagon nominee after battle over tweets, Mideast views
Supreme Court passes on Second Amendment cases challenging lifetime gun ownership ban
The Supreme Court declined to hear three Second Amendment cases challenging a federal ban on gun ownership for people convicted of nonviolent crimes.By not taking the appeals, the nation's highest court let stand a series of lower court rulings that prohibited people convicted of driving under the influence, making false statements on tax returns and selling counterfeit cassette tapes from owning a gun.
The Senate on Tuesday approved Colin Kahl, President Joe Biden's pick for the top Pentagon policy job, capping the most contentious and partisan confirmation process for a Defense Department nominee so far in the opening months of the new administration.
The vote was 49-45 to confirm Kahl as undersecretary of defense for policy. Tuesday evening's vote broke entirely along party lines. He is the third Biden Pentagon nominee to win Senate approval.
Colin Kahl: Harris casts first tie-breaking vote for a Biden nominee after Senate splits on Pentagon pick
Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tie-breaking vote related to a Biden administration nominee on the Senate floor Wednesday evening, voting to advance the nomination of Colin Kahl to be the Pentagon's undersecretary for policy.Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tie-breaking vote related to a Biden administration nominee on the Senate floor Wednesday evening, voting to advance the nomination of Colin Kahl to be the Pentagon's undersecretary for policy.
Republicans uniformly opposed Kahl, a former top Middle East policy official at the Pentagon and national security adviser to then-Vice President Joe Biden during the Obama administration, over a host of policy differences and his past criticism of the GOP on social media. That dynamic may continue to hound him as he takes on a position that will see him regularly testify on Capitol Hill and consult with top lawmakers from both parties.
In a statement following the vote, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was "disappointed" Kahl's nomination was approved and highlighted the new official's lack of support among Republicans, who all opposed him in the committee and on the floor.
Overnight Defense: Pentagon panel recommends major change in prosecuting military sexual assault | Reinforcements provide cover for Afghanistan withdrawal | Biden pick would be Pentagon's highest-ranking openly trans official
Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.THE TOPLINE: A Pentagon panel on combating sexual assault is recommending a change that has been long sought by advocates but resisted by the military: taking decisions to prosecute service members for sexual assault outside the chain of command.The Associated Press on Friday first reported the recommendation - made by a civilian-led commission created by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in February - which would mark a major reversal of military policy.
"The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy position has always, until now, received bipartisan support during the confirmation process," Inhofe said. "That Dr. Kahl did not garner a single Republican vote — that is really saying something."
Still, the Oklahoma Republican vowed to "work in good faith" with Kahl.
"In turn, I hope Dr. Kahl intends to do the same — to work closely with all members of the Senate, not just the ones with a ‘D’ next to their name," Inhofe said. "I hope his apology before the committee was sincere and that he approaches this job with better judgment, commitment to bipartisanship and respect than he’s demonstrated so far."
A procedural vote to permit his nomination last week broke evenly along party lines and was only successful after Vice President Kamala Harris broke the 50-50 tie.
With several GOP absences on Tuesday, however, Kahl was confirmed with several votes to spare.
Hundreds show up in Nebraska for fight over name Josh
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A fight over the name of Josh drew a crowd from around the country to a Nebraska park Saturday for a heated pool-noodle brawl. It all started a year ago when pandemic boredom set in and Josh Swain, a 22-year-old college student from Tucson, Arizona, messaged others who shared his name on social media and challenged them to a duel. Hundreds showed up at Air Park in Lincoln — a location chosen at random — to participate in the silliness.
After a turbulent confirmation hearing in early March, uniform GOP resistance drew out Kahl's confirmation process. Republicans argued Kahl lacked the temperament and policy judgment for the senior post — pointing to his advocacy for the 2015 Iran nuclear pact that former President Donald Trump scrapped, his warnings that aggressive actions by the Trump administration could lead to war with Iran, and his opposition to moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Republicans have also hammered Kahl over past tweets that criticize Trump's national security policies and GOP lawmakers, contending they show he isn't up to a job that requires solid relationships with both parties. Kahl apologized for his online rhetoric at his confirmation hearing.
Democrats, meanwhile, have backed Kahl and argue he's well-qualified for the top policy job. His allies, including former defense and foreign policy officials in both parties, argue Kahl has been the target of a "smear campaign" and that his nomination is being used in a proxy battle over the Iran nuclear agreement, just as the Biden administration is seeking to reconstitute the deal.
Joe Manchin wants to save Democrats from themselves
But is his love for the filibuster dooming the country to dysfunction?The year was 1983, the setting was West Virginia’s statehouse in Charleston, and the deadline was the end of the legislative session at midnight. Democratic leaders wanted to pass a bill creating a board that could cap rates charged by hospitals in the state. Manchin, a 35-year-old first-term state representative, had opposed the proposal.
Kahl will get on the job as the Pentagon looks to finalize its share of the Biden administration's fiscal 2022 budget request in the coming weeks. Pentagon officials are also set to review a bevy of plans crafted by the Trump administration, including a nuclear weapons blueprint and ambitious shipbuilding plans that grow the Navy to more than 500 manned and unmanned ships.
Under Biden, the Pentagon has scrapped a plan to withdraw thousands of troops from Germany and is carrying out Biden's orders to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the fall.
Kahl's confirmation gives Biden his top three Pentagon officials just over three months since his swearing in. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was confirmed in January and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks was swiftly confirmed in February.
Biden is outpacing Trump in nominations and confirmations for the senior rungs of the Pentagon. At this point in Trump's presidency, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was the only nominee to have been confirmed by the Senate.
Pentagon watchdog investigating military handling of UFO sightings .
The Pentagon's watchdog is investigating the military's policy around how it handles sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The Department of Defense's (DOD) Office of Inspector General said in a memo Monday that it will conduct evaluation into the "extent to which the DoD has taken actions regarding Unidentified Aerial Phenomena." It added "we may revise the objective as the evaluation proceeds, and we will consider suggestions from management for additional or revised objectives." The move comes as the Pentagon confirms several UFO sightings were real over the past year.