Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said Tuesday that he will place a hold on “every single civilian nominee” for the State and Defense Departments unless Secretary Antony Blinken and Secretary Lloyd Austin resign from their posts, citing their roles in overseeing the US’ chaotic exit from Afghanistan.
The Missouri Republican told CNN that his holds will apply to any civilian nominee at the deputy and secretary levels, as well as ambassadors.
The move would force Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to take time-consuming procedural steps required to advance many uncontroversial nominees. And with scant floor time, it could be enough to indefinitely delay any number of nominees who normally would be quickly confirmed by voice vote.
Speaking earlier Tuesday on the Senate floor, Hawley demanded President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, also resign, arguing that “the failure of these individuals, the failure of this administration, has cost Americans their lives and has left American civilians to the enemy.”
“There must be accountability and then there must be a new start,” he said.
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment. The senator’s threat will likely cause concerns within the Biden administration, which has already been slow to announce some key nominations and has yet to have confirmed ambassadors installed in key countries such as China, India, France or Israel.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez scoffed at Hawley’s plans on Tuesday, charging his fellow senator with risking US national security.
“That would undermine US national security and its interests,” said Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat. “That would be a brilliant idea on behalf of Sen. Hawley.”
But Hawley pushed back at the notion that his move would jeopardize national security efforts, telling CNN that his concern was, among other things, with the 13 US service members killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan last month as troops raced to evacuate Americans and vulnerable Afghans.
“I’m concerned that hundreds of American civilians were left behind enemy lines and are still there. And I’m concerned the President of the United States said it was an extraordinary success … I can’t think of another example in American history when a commander in chief has celebrated that kind catastrophe as a success,” the senator said. “He should resign.”
Among the people who could get caught up in Hawley’s plans are Scott Miller, an LGBTQ rights activist and philanthropist who Biden nominated last month to be the next US ambassador to Switzerland, and Rahm Emanuel, Biden’s pick to be ambassador to Japan.
The threat could also complicate the confirmation processes for Melissa Dalton, Biden’s pick to be assistant secretary for Homeland Defense and Global Security Affairs at the Defense Department, and a host of other State Department nominees, including David Cohen to be the US ambassador to Canada, Karen Donfried to be the assistant secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs and Anne Witkowsky to be the assistant secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations.
The Senate on Monday confirmed three State Department nominees: Donald Lu for assistant secretary for South Asian Affairs, Brett Holmgren for assistant secretary for Intelligence and Research, and Brian Nichols for assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere.
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