WASHINGTON — The Senate has voted 86-10 to let Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster keep his rank as national security adviser to President Trump.
The Senate did not have to confirm McMaster to lead the White House’s National Security Council, but the law requires the Senate to confirm three- and four-star generals when they change jobs.
Ahead of the vote on Wednesday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., urged his colleagues to approve McMaster with brief remarks on the Senate floor.
“He is experienced, talented, and he knows what it's like to be in combat with the enemy, and I believe he is badly needed in this important position,” McCain said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was among the 10 Democrats who voted no, a list that included more than half of SASC Democrats: Sens. Kristen Gillibrand, of New York; Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts. Sens. Corey Booker, of New Jersey; Kamila Harris, of California; Ed Markey, Massachusetts; Jeff Merkeley, Oregon, and Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, were the others.
In a floor speech before the vote, Schumer said the NSC had faced unprecedented turmoil, with the resignation of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and inclusion of political strategist Steve Bannon — and expressed hope McMaster would be a “grounding presence.”
“I have a great deal of respect for both his integrity and his abilities. But I remain deeply concerned that Gen. McMaster's judgment may not be followed and instead the fevered dreams of Mr. Bannon will influence the most sensitive national security discussions and decisions,” Schumer said.
Schumer argued the NSC’s reshuffling to deemphasize the Joint Chiefs chairman and director of national intelligence and elevate Bannon endangers national security and moves the panel towards “a shadow counsel of dangerously ideological West Wing.”
“On the most sensitive issues of national security, we have to have fact-based decisions,” Schumer said. “The president has to get the most dispassionate and accurate advice. In all due respect, that's not Mr. Bannon's forte.”
The vote came the same day Politico reported that Trump overruled McMaster on the reassignment of a 30-year-old intelligence operative, raising questions over how much autonomy Trump will give McMaster.
The SASC voted earlier this month to advance McMaster, though some committee Democrats said afterwards that they needed more information, and several voted in vain to delay the proceedings.
Reportedly, Democrats were concerned that McMaster had been officially rebuked two years ago for mishandling a case involving two junior officers accused of sexual assault. The issue did not resurface on the Senate floor on Wednesday, however.
Flynn resigned amid reports he misled administration officials regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States and amid reports of Russia’s interference in U.S. elections.
The White House, in a statement after the vote, lauded the support from the SASC and full Senate.
"McMaster’s distinguished career has included multiple overseas tours in the service of our country, experiences that will be invaluable as he provides President Trump with advice on the many challenges facing the United States around the globe," the statement reads. "The Senate’s broad, bipartisan support for General McMaster affirms that he is the right person for this job."