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.
Overnight Defense: Top Pentagon nominee advances after Harris casts tie-breaker | Air Force general charged with sexual assault first to face court-martial | House passes bill to limit Saudi arms sales
Happy Wednesday 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: Vice President Harris on Wednesday cast a tie-breaking vote to advance President Biden's nominee to be the Pentagon's policy chief.The Senate, which has a 50-50 partisan divide, split entirely on party lines on discharging Colin Kahl's nomination from committee, requiring Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote.
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.
Republicans want Pentagon to allow permit for annual veterans motorcycle ride
House and Senate lawmakers called on the Defense Department Wednesday to reconsider its decision against allowing military veterans to engage in their annual Memorial Day weekend motorcycle ride in the nation’s capital. © Provided by Washington Examiner The event has long aimed to raise awareness for American prisoners of war as well as veteran suicide. NOEM ACCUSES THE MEDIA OF LYING ABOUT STURGIS RALLY SUPERSPREADER FOLLOWING NEW CDC RESEARCH“As a biker and a veteran, I’m saddened by this decision.
"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.
The big Pentagon internet mystery now partially solved
BOSTON (AP) — A very strange thing happened on the internet the day President Joe Biden was sworn in. A shadowy company residing at a shared workspace above a Florida bank announced to the world’s computer networks that it was now managing a colossal, previously idle chunk of the internet owned by the U.S. Department of Defense. That real estate has since more than quadrupled to 175 million addresses — about 1/25th the size of the current internet. ”It is massive. That is the biggest thing in the history of the internet,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik, a network operating company.
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.
Senate confirms Biden pick for Pentagon's undersecretary for policy
The Senate confirmed Colin Kahl to be the No. 3 civilian at the Pentagon on Tuesday, approving President Joe Biden's nominee for Pentagon policy chief on a party-line vote. © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Former US Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for the Middle East Colin Kahl participates in February 2012 at a panel discussion in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
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.
Judge won't block Arizona Senate's 2020 election recount .
PHOENIX (AP) — A judge on Wednesday refused to shut down the Republican-led Arizona Senate's recount of 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 election in the state's most populous county but ordered ballot secrecy and voter privacy procedures its contractor is using be made public. The decision by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin was both a loss and a win for the Arizona Democratic Party, whose lawyers argued the secrecy sought by the Senate put voter privacy at risk.