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Kahl nomination to advance to Senate floor after Manchin supports imperiled pick

Colin Kahl’s nomination to be Pentagon policy chief is on track to advance to the Senate floor after West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin supported the imperiled pick in a key committee vote.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday deadlocked over the nomination, which means that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to take procedural steps to advance the nomination to the Senate floor, but likely means that Kahl will ultimately be confirmed despite controversy over the nomination.

Kahl’s nomination had earlier appeared to be on the brink of collapse over criticism of his past tweets.

The closed-door committee vote was 13-13, with Manchin ultimately voting yes, according to GOP Sen. Josh Hawley.

Manchin had refused to say for weeks how he would come down, but his support for the nomination likely means that all fifty Democrats will vote to confirm Kahl when the floor vote eventually occurs.

Manchin, whose opposition to Neera Tanden’s as President Joe Biden’s initial pick to be White House budget director sunk that nomination and stemmed largely from her partisan tweets, said the situation was different with Kahl. His stance on the two nominees underscores the powerful position the West Virginia Democrat continues to hold in the 50-50 Senate when votes come down along party lines.

Manchin told CNN that Kahl’s tweets weren’t as “pointed” at specific individuals and senators and were focused much more on policy.

“Tanden’s was much more prolific than that — and pointed,” Manchin said. “It wasn’t about policy, it was more about a person. There is a difference.”

Sen. Jack Reed, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters the vote was tied, with all Democrats on the committee voting in favor of Kahl’s nomination and all Republicans voting against.

The Rhode Island Democrat said he doesn’t know when the nomination will be brought to the floor for a final vote, but it’s “now essentially on the desk, ready for discharge” when the majority leader decides to take it up.

Kahl apologized to Republican senators for using “sometimes disrespectful” language in tweets criticizing several Trump administration defense policy decisions during his confirmation hearing earlier this month.

Manchin said supporting Kahl was “not an easy decision” and said that he had “many phone calls” with the nominee — and also spoke with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and former secretary Bob Gates. He didn’t speak with Biden and said he made his decision to support the nomination on Wednesday morning.

Manchin said he has a “different oversight opinion on Iran” than Kahl but agreed on other matters, such as on Syria.

Recalling his conversation with Kahl, Manchin said: “Some of your tweets, I said, ‘We live in a world that is so divided now and this just becomes more. I don’t know why — maybe it’s your generation … Your tweets are not as hard-hitting, pinpointing as far as individuals – it was on the policy.”

Manchin said he tends to lean toward being deferential to a President to make his choices on appointments.

If confirmed, Kahl would serve as under secretary of defense for policy focused on policy issues, working closely with Austin.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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