Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 1, 2014

McCain to Hold Joint Chiefs Chairman’s Nomination, Pending Answers on Syria

The primary broker of the deal to avert the “nuclear option,” Sen. John McCain, plans to use that deal to put a hold on the nomination of Gen. Martin E. Dempsey to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Stafff for another two years.

After all, preserving filibusters of executive branch nominees, as the Arizona Republican’s deal did, also preserves the ability of senators to place procedural holds.

McCain was asked if he would vote against Dempsey; he said he was going a step further.

“Actually, I’m putting a hold on Gen. Dempsey until Gen. Dempsey responds to the legitimate questions that he committed to do,” McCain said.

President Barack Obama nominated Dempsey for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Senate Armed Services Committee currently has the nomination under review.

McCain said Dempsey declined to answer a question seeking his opinion on whether “Syria would be better off if we had intervened or not better off if we did intervene.”

McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., met with Obama Wednesday to discuss foreign affairs and national security. McCain said that meeting included talk about Syria.

Dempsey isn’t the only executive branch nominee with a senatorial hold. Sen. Rand Paul says he will prevent expedited processing of James B. Comey to be the next FBI director until he gets answers to questions regarding drones.

The Kentucky Republican referenced that hold on Monday evening as a example of a reason to preserve the prerogative of all senators to filibuster presidential nominee.

The Judiciary Committee endorsed Comey’s nomination on Thursday morning, 18-0.

“I hope the Senate will follow the Committee’s bipartisan example and approve this important nomination before the August recess,” Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement after the vote.

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