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Two Pentagon Nominees Face Democratic Objections

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This week, two Democratic senators announced they would use their leverage to stall two different Defense nominees.

Sen. Mark Pryor said Friday that he’s holding up President Barack Obama’s nomination for a Pentagon personnel post over a home-state policy dispute.

The Arkansas Democrat’s hold on the nomination of Jessica Wright to be undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness stems from concerns about the ending of the Army’s ROTC program at Arkansas State University.

Pryor said in a statement that he hadn’t gotten information from the Army to explain the reasons for closing the program at the Jonesboro school.

“This lack of information is completely unacceptable. I refuse to release this nominee until the Army fulfills its promise and provides a reasonable explanation for its decision. This is a successful program, and I will fight tooth and nail to keep it open,” said Pryor, who faces a tough re-election fight next year.

Holds on relatively minor nominations, particularly by members of the majority party, can effectively block nominees from confirmation since the Senate leadership might be loath to take the time to work through the debate-limiting process of invoking cloture. That differs from a high-profile nomination like that of Janet L. Yellen to head the Federal Reserve.

Wright, already a Pentagon official, has been serving in the same job in an acting capacity. She’s the second Defense nominee facing an objection that’s been publicly announced this week.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced a hold on the nomination of Jo Ann Rooney to be undersecretary of the Navy over statements regarding military sexual-assault prosecutions that the New York Democrat called “shocking.”

The New York Daily News detailed Gillibrand’s concerns in a report Thursday evening.

“It is time to move the sole decision-making power over whether serious crimes akin to felony go to trial from the chain of command into the hands of non-biased, professionally trained, military prosecutors — where it belongs,” Gillibrand said.

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