Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is calling on Kansas Republican Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback to lift their hold on the nomination of Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) to become the next secretary of the Army.
Roberts and Brownback placed their hold on McHugh during the Senate’s last week in session before the August recess in an effort to force the Obama administration’s hand on its plans for shutting down the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp for suspected terrorists.
Speculation in recent weeks has grown that the administration may look to transfer the terror suspects held at Gitmo to either Fort Leavenworth in Kansas or to a facility in Michigan, and Roberts has vowed to shut down the Senate if the administration picks his state.
In a letter Thursday to the two lawmakers, Gillibrand argued that with military operations continuing in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is important to get McHugh in place as soon as possible. His nomination was already approved by the Armed Services Committee in a voice vote.
“In this critical time, our men and women in uniform should not be deprived of the critical leadership provided by the Secretary of the Army,— she wrote. “I had the privilege of serving with Congressman McHugh on the House Armed Services Committee and believe that he is uniquely qualified to serve and to lead the Army during this time of challenge and opportunity.—
Gillibrand did not, however, mention the issue of Gitmo in her letter.
Even if the Kansans agree to drop their hold, with the Senate out of session until the beginning of September, it would still be weeks before McHugh could be confirmed.
The timing of McHugh’s confirmation could also affect what is expected to be a highly competitive special election to fill his upstate New York House seat, which pits state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R) against attorney Bill Owens (D). The election won’t be scheduled until McHugh resigns.