Esper, Milley nominations head to floor; Hyten‘s fate unclear

McConnell lined up Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday

Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper prepares to testify during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday advanced to the floor the nominations for Mark Esper to be Defense secretary and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promptly filed cloture on the nomination, lining up a Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday.

[Esper on path for quick confirmation despite Raytheon ties]

Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a member of Senate Armed Services who is running for president, told reporters Thursday she planned to object to Esper’s nomination on the floor, a move that would have prevented a unanimous consent and necessitated the cloture vote.

During a closed-door committee meeting, Milley’s nomination was grouped with other Pentagon nominees, Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma said. But Esper’s nomination to fill a Cabinet post that has been vacant nearly eight months was considered separately.

Committee aides said Esper was advanced to the floor by a voice vote, but Warren told reporters she requested to be recorded as a “no” vote.

“He couldn’t answer three basic ethics questions,” Warren said, referring to her sharp exchange with Esper during his confirmation hearing Tuesday. “He should not become secretary of Defense.”

Esper, who currently serves as Army secretary, was on the Hill on Thursday but declined to comment on his pending nomination.

Also expected to be on the agenda at Thursday’s committee meeting, which spanned some two hours, was the embattled nomination of Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, for the job of Joint Chiefs vice chairman.

Earlier this month, a female officer who worked for Hyten accused him of sexual assault, saying Hyten kissed and touched her on nine occasions between February 2017 and February 2018. The officer also claimed Hyten tried to damage her career after she rejected his advances.

[Esper approval likely, but sexual assault allegations slow Joint Chiefs vice chair pick]

A Defense Department probe of the allegations cleared Hyten of wrongdoing, but Democratic Armed Services Committee members said Wednesday they are not satisfied with the information given to them thus far.

Senators on Thursday refused to comment on whether the committee discussed Hyten’s nomination during the closed-door meeting.


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