Though President Donald Trump nominated top Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan to be the deputy secretary of defense in March, the prospective number two man at the Pentagon has only just sat down for Senate confirmation hearings. Now, he is at risk of being further delayed by one particular Republican senator.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee which is holding the hearing, threatened to withhold Shanahan’s name from being voted on due to finding the nominee’s answers regarding Ukraine and his ties to Boeing “not satisfactory,” The Washington Post reported.
“In your questions that were submitted to you, one of the questions was providing the Ukrainians with legal, lethal defense weaponry with which to defend themselves,” McCain said. “Inexplicably, you responded by saying you have to look at the issue. It’s not satisfactory, Mr. Shanahan.”
Shanahan made it clear that he did support arming the Ukrainians, but due to his current inability to see all classified information regarding such matters, he needed to wait until he was fully briefed before taking a final position. According to McCain, he found this explanation “very disappointing” and accused Shanahan of dodging questions.
“Not a good beginning. Not a good beginning. Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or I will not take your name up for a vote before this committee,” McCain threatened, according to The Hill.
Though Shanahan seemed to be respected by most of the other members of the committee, McCain continued to chastise and grill him, both in regard to the Russia/Ukraine issue as well as his time as an executive at Boeing.
Defense News reported that Shanahan — senior vice president of supply chain operations and former VP of the missile defense systems and the Rotorcraft Systems division at Boeing — noted that, if confirmed, he would recuse himself from any decision making on programs in which Boeing was involved, unless a waiver was given to him by the ethics office.
But that wasn’t good enough for McCain, who said, “Your job is one of the most important and key elements (for DoD) and frankly I’m not overjoyed that you came from one of the five (big defense) corporations, 90 percent of the spending of the taxpayer dollars comes out of five different corporations. That’s not what our founding fathers had in mind.”
Defense News noted that the tough line of questioning and threat to hold up the nomination process was particularly unexpected given McCain’s prior statements about Shanahan in April, when he cited the nominee’s “excellent reputation” as a reason for moving forward with the confirmation process.
We expect Democrats to stall the process and throw a wrench into the Trump administration’s plans at every opportunity, but such behavior is not expected from Republicans, at least not from those who are even tangentially on board with the overall mission of strengthening the military and making America great again.
Sen. McCain appears to have completely missed that train, and his behavior at the confirmation hearing will only have more of the Republican base questioning the senator’s loyalty to country and party and whether he should continue to serve as a member of Congress.