Senate Democrats are pushing for Biden nominees with Russia expertise after Senator Hawley slowed the process
Hawley, a harsh critic of the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, has blocked swift action against several of Biden’s Pentagon nominees as he seeks answers about government policy.
“Senators have the right to object,” Sen. Jack Reed (DR.I.), chair of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement to the Washington Post on Monday. “They also have a responsibility to America’s national security interests, particularly as Russia masses troops in Eastern Europe. It is time that politics took a back seat here.”
Efforts last week to confirm Wallander along with two other Pentagon nominees — David Honey as Assistant Secretary of State for Research and Technology and Melissa Dalton as Assistant Secretary of State for Homeland Defense and Global Security Affairs — was led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H .), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee.
Shaheen, in an interview with The Post on Monday, condemned Hawley’s efforts to delay Wallander’s confirmation and accused him of endangering national security if Russia invaded Ukrainian territory. Shaheen said senators have the right to hold up candidates when there are questions about qualifications, but Hawley’s blanket delay is “simply unprecedented.”
“He’s interested in asserting himself, not in getting answers,” Shaheen said, noting that the Senate passed defense legislation in December that would create a commission charged with investigating what’s happening in Afghanistan.
Hawley’s suggestion that Democrats “who supported this commission, like me, don’t want answers on Afghanistan,” she said.
In the Senate on Thursday, Hawley accused the Biden administration of not moving fast enough to strengthen Ukraine. The GOP senator also suggested that the government’s actions in Afghanistan had emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin and “other dictators around the world.”
“What responsibilities did you have during that time? Who was relieved of duty? Who was shown the door? What have we learned?” said Hawley, who also serves on the Armed Services Committee. “The answer is that there has been no accountability.”
In a statement to The Post Monday, Hawley doubled down on his criticism of the government.
“As Joe Biden’s incompetence brings Europe closer to war, Dr. Wallander to think that we should be doing more of that in Europe, including getting Ukraine into NATO, which will mean more and more American troops,” said Hawley, who opposes and insists efforts to get Ukraine into NATO that the focus should be on China.
This month, the White House accused Hawley of “parroting Russian talking points” based on his comments about Ukraine and NATO.
A spokesman for Hawley noted that Wallander’s nomination had been pending on the Armed Services Committee since June of last year, raising questions about the expediency claims.
At her confirmation hearing last month, Wallander criticized the Obama-Biden administration’s handling of Ukraine during Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, saying the US response was “too slow and incremental.”
Hawley’s opposition to a quick confirmation from Wallander means the nomination must go through additional procedural steps by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.). Shaheen said she has not yet spoken to Schumer about what he will do, although she will again seek unanimous approval to move the nomination forward quickly.
Schumer commented on all three nominations Monday night. The Senate is expected to vote on their confirmations on Wednesday.
“This is a time when, as we have been hearing for months, every effort is being made to do everything possible in the diplomatic sphere to counter Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, to the extent that Senator Hawley is preventing us from “Having the qualified competent people on the ground to address the issues now jeopardizes our national security and our ability to address what is happening on the ground in Europe,” Shaheen said.