WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate panel that will handle Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey’s confirmation process expects him to be given a second term. Still, he’s ready for some surprises.
Asked Thursday by Defense News whether he expects his colleagues to make Dempsey’s confirmation a rocky one — or even block it — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., replied: “I hope not.”
Dempsey’s first two-year stint as the nation’s top military officer has featured some tense moments on Capitol Hill.
While professional exchanges were the norm, there were tense exchanges.
For instance, he has taken fire from Republican members over the Pentagon’s response to the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. And Dempsey and other top American generals clashed earlier this month with lawmakers over the military’s approach to a sexual assault epidemic.
Still, Levin was upbeat Thursday about the odds the SASC will approve President Barack Obama’s proposal to give Dempsey a second two-year term as chairman.
“I’m hopeful,” Levin said.
“But you just never know here,” Levin said with a wry grin as he peered over his glasses outside the Senate chamber. By that, he was referring to the sometimes practice of a senator — or a group of them — causing trouble for a nominee.
Earlier this year, a handful of GOP senators briefly held up the nomination of Chuck Hagel to become defense secretary. They eventually yielded, but not before forcing the Obama White House to turn over internal documents about the Benghazi strike.
One of them was Senate Armed Services Committee member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
During a brief interview Thursday with Defense News, Graham signalled he will support Dempsey’s nomination for a second term.
“I like Gen. Dempsey,” Graham said. “I don’t agree with him on multiple fronts, but I think he’s served our country well.”
Asked if he intended to block the nomination by placing what is known in the Senate as a “hold” on the nomination, Graham said simply, “No.”