GOP Sen. Susan Collins is opposing President Joe Biden’s nominee for a top Pentagon job, narrowing the path for Colin Kahl to be confirmed as the undersecretary of defense for policy.
Collins’ position likely means Kahl’s nomination will hinge on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who remains undecided. If Manchin supports Kahl, the former Obama administration official may require Vice President Kamala Harris to cast her first tie-breaking vote on a nominee in the evenly divided Senate. Nominations need a simple Senate majority to be confirmed.
Though Kahl is the latest of several Biden nominees to take heat for past antagonistic tweets, Collins also cited “significant concerns” about his policy views in the Middle East in opposing his nomination.
“He warned of calamity following the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, when instead we saw historically close Arab-Israeli ties in 2020," the Maine senator said.
“Some of Dr. Kahl’s actions have raised questions about his ability to work with Congress in a thoughtful and productive manner,” Collins added in a statement to POLITICO. “If America is going to successfully confront our toughest national security challenges, we need a nominee for this position who will help bring Republicans and Democrats together.”
Just one of Biden’s nominees has failed to win Senate confirmation thus far: Collins, Manchin and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) opposed Neera Tanden’s bid to be budget chief and she was withdrawn before her committee vote. Collins voted for Xavier Becerra to be Health and Human Services secretary on Thursday, casting the deciding 50th vote due to a Democratic absence.
Kahl’s nomination has been in serious jeopardy for upwards of a week as Manchin deliberates. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin lobbied Manchin to support Kahl, who apologized during his confirmation hearing for what he called “disrespectful” social media posts.
Manchin serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, meaning Kahl needs the West Virginian’s vote to easily get out of the panel and to the Senate floor. However, Manchin has said that Kahl’s tweets weren’t nearly as damaging as Tanden’s, explaining why the West Virginia moderate has not come out as a hard no vote.
As he and the administration push to save his confirmation bid, Kahl’s committee vote was delayed from its original date last week. With a two-week Senate recess approaching, it appears the earliest he could be confirmed is in mid-April.
Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.