Just hours before the Senate confirmed Ashton Carter as defense secretary on a vote of 93 to 5, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., issued a brief statement saying he would oppose both Carter’s and attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation.
“After careful review, I’ve decided to vote against President Obama’s nominees for both the departments of defense and justice. Unfortunately, I believe both of these nominees will simply continue to uphold President Obama’s flawed agenda at these important agencies.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., also voted against Carter's confirmation.
Both U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., supported Carter.
For her part, McCaskill said she was “thrilled” with Carter’s selection, telling Politico that Carter now heads a “dream team of wonkiness” at the Defense Department.
Carter has held numerous positions at the Pentagon including, serving as a former deputy defense secretary. Unlike outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Carter is seen as a technocrat willing to take a serious look at issues of waste and inefficiency and to challenge big-ticket spending on military equipment and systems seen by some at the Pentagon as unnecessary.
McCaskill applauds Carter’s expertise and detailed understanding of the defense acquisition process saying it will allow him to deal with some of the department’s more complicated problems.
Durbin also praised Carter, singling out his work at the Rock Island Arsenal.
“In our discussions I was pleased to hear his appreciation for the organic industrial base – especially one near and dear to my heart: the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois,” Durbin said. “He recalled his experiences in Afghanistan as he tried to bring our troops the body armor and the armored vehicles they needed. He recalled working alongside the great employees – the dedicated employees – at the Rock Island Arsenal as they delivered the necessary life-saving equipment to our troops and rolled it off their assembly lines in record time.”
Thursday, Durbin also called on the Senate to take up Lynch’s nomination, noting that “it’s been 95 days since the president announced the nomination.”
“This is longer than any other attorney general nominee has had to wait in recent memory,” Durbin said, adding that when Democrats controlled the Senate, they confirmed Michael Mukasey as President George W. Bush’s attorney general in 50 days. Mukasey held that post from November 2007 until the end of Bush’s term in January 2009.
“Nobody’s questioned her record as a federal prosecutor," said Durbin. “She’s twice before been unanimously confirmed to serve as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District for New York. She has been vetted and examined and questioned to a fare-thee-well.”
Durbin added that Lynch had testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for nearly eight hours, “answering every question and including 600 written questions that were sent to her. It’s time to move forward and confirm this obviously well-qualified and historic nominee.” (If confirmed, Lynch would be the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general.)
Blunt’s office did not return an email late Thursday afternoon asking whether he had any other concerns about Lynch’s qualifications to do the job of attorney general.
Lynch’s confirmation vote may not come before the Senate before Feb. 26 and possibly not until next month, as lawmakers are set to leave Washington Friday to begin a one-week break.