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Senate Confirms First Openly Gay Army Secretary

Eric Fanning was confirmed after Senate hold dropped over Guantanamo detainees

Fanning was confirmed Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Fanning was confirmed Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate confirmed the first openly gay Army secretary on Tuesday, after one senator lifted his hold on the nomination.  

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., had blocked Eric Fanning’s nomination to be the Army’s top civilian on the condition that the White House reassured him that detainees at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would not be transferred to Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas.

“I have pledged to the people of Kansas that I would do everything in my power to stop President Obama from moving terrorist detainees to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, the intellectual center of the Army,” Roberts said in a statement. “I believe today that I can tell Kansans that the threat from this administration will go unfulfilled.”

Related: Kansas Delegation Balks at Plans to Move Gitmo Detainees to Leavenworth

Roberts said he met with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work on May 10 and Work told him, “‘I am the person who would have to execute it [the moving of detainees to the mainland], and the clock has run out.’”

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., welcomed the development Tuesday, but last month he sparred with Roberts about the holding up Fanning’s nomination over the Cuban prison.

“Mr. Fanning has nothing to do with the issue. So we’re shooting a hostage that is being held that has nothing to do with the decision-making process,” McCain said at the end of April when Roberts blocked McCain’s attempt to call up Fanning’s nomination. “If we inaugurate a practice here of holding nominees over an issue that is not related to those nominees, we are abusing our power and authority as United States senators.”

Related: Senate Committee Confirms First Openly Gay Military Service Leader 

The Senate first received Fanning’s nomination in September 2015, and the Senate Armed Services Committee approved it in March. Fanning, who comes from a military family, had previously served as acting under secretary of the Army and chief management officer and the undersecretary of the Air Force.

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