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Congressional Record2017/03/15Senate | House | Extensions

2017/03/15 > Senate > S1824 >     1 | Next Article

        

[Pages S1824-S1826]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO




                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the nomination.

The bill clerk read the nomination of Lt. Gen. Herbert R. McMaster, Jr., to be Lieutenant General in the United States Army while assigned to a position of importance and responsibility under title 10, U.S.C., section 601.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the cloture motion is withdrawn.

The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the McMaster nomination?

Mr. TOOMEY. I ask for the yeas and nays.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?

There appears to be a sufficient second.

The clerk will call the roll.

The senior assistant legislative clerk called the roll.

Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. Alexander), the Senator from Wyoming (Mr. Barrasso), the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. Corker), and the Senator from Georgia (Mr. Isakson).

Further, if present and voting, the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. Alexander) would have voted “yea,” the Senator from Wyoming (Mr. Barrasso) would have voted “yea,” and the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. Corker) would have voted “yea.”

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber desiring to vote?

The result was announced--yeas 86, nays 10, as follows: [[Page S1825]] [Rollcall Vote No. 90 Ex.] YEAS--86 Baldwin Bennet Blumenthal Blunt Boozman Brown Burr Cantwell Capito Cardin Carper Casey Cassidy Cochran Collins Coons Cornyn Cortez Masto Cotton Crapo Cruz Daines Donnelly Duckworth Durbin Enzi Ernst Feinstein Fischer Flake Franken Gardner Graham Grassley Hassan Hatch Heinrich Heitkamp Heller Hoeven Inhofe Johnson Kaine Kennedy King Klobuchar Lankford Leahy Lee Manchin McCain McConnell Menendez Moran Murkowski Murphy Murray Nelson Paul Perdue Peters Portman Reed Risch Roberts Rounds Rubio Sasse Schatz Scott Shaheen Shelby Stabenow Strange Sullivan Tester Thune Tillis Toomey Udall Van Hollen Warner Whitehouse Wicker Wyden Young NAYS--10 Booker Gillibrand Harris Hirono Markey McCaskill Merkley Sanders Schumer Warren NOT VOTING--4 Alexander Barrasso Corker Isakson

The nomination was confirmed.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Colorado.

Mr. GARDNER. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote, and I move to table the motion to reconsider.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion.

The motion was agreed to.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.

Mr. REED. Mr. President, I voted to support Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster retaining the grade of lieutenant general while serving as the National Security Advisor to the President. To be clear, this vote was to permit Lieutenant General McMaster to remain in the grade of lieutenant general while serving in this position. It is not to confirm him as the National Security Advisor.

Lieutenant General McMaster was appointed by the President to a position that does not require Senate confirmation. Indeed, he is already serving as National Security Advisor. The only remaining question is whether he will serve in the military grade of lieutenant general on Active Duty.

The position of National Security Advisor is one of the most important in our government. Not only does it require someone capable of providing timely and thoughtful counsel on national security matters, it entails coordinating advice and action across multiple executive agencies with responsibilities in the national security arena. Further, it necessitates a large measure of independence and knowledge.

This is not the first time we have considered an Active-Duty military officer for this position. Lieutenant General McMaster would be the third such officer to so serve, following Admiral John Poindexter under President Reagan and General Colin Powell under President George Herbert Walker Bush.

Many of my colleagues are rightly concerned about this and question whether it would be more appropriate for him to retire and serve in a civilian capacity. While I strongly believe it would be better for Lieutenant General McMaster to retire and avoid all perceptions of politicizing the military, he believes that serving in uniform will help him remain apolitical in service to this Administration. He can expect Congress to hold him to his word that wearing the uniform in this position will serve to keep the military above the political fray.

Some Members have expressed concern about the proper functioning of our national security apparatus and clear chains of command with respect to military advice provided to the President under this arrangement. While Lieutenant General McMaster would be the National Security Advisor to the President, providing day-to-day advice and counsel on all national security matters, General Joseph Dunford, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would continue to be the “principal military advisor” to the President, while Secretary Mattis is the “principal assistant to the President in all matters related to the Department of Defense.”

As Senator Sam Nunn described the issue with respect to the nomination of then-Lieutenant General Powell, in Senator Nunn's words, “A military officer who knows that his next promotion depends on the Secretary of Defense and the top generals and admirals in the Pentagon may simply not, over a period of time, be able to make completely objective decisions based on the fact that his promotion, his pay, and his future depend on one department, and that one department is an active player in the government.”

This question centers on Lieutenant General McMaster's ability to retain the necessary measure of independence as he discharges his duties to the President. I ultimately believe, after careful consideration, that Lieutenant General McMaster will be able to balance these roles and provide advice and direction designed to further the Nation's interests and not simply those of the Department of Defense or indeed, to advance his own ambitions.

It is also my hope that Lieutenant General McMaster will be a moderating influence on a White House that desperately needs talented, informed, and professional advisers. This Administration has proposed a reorganization of the National Security Council structure that excludes the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence from meetings unless specifically invited. Lieutenant General McMaster assured the Committee that General Dunford and the DNI will be invited to attend any meeting of the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, and I appreciated that assurance.

The Trump Administration reorganization also added the President's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to the National Security Council. This politicization of the NSC is unsound, and I think without merit. The law creating the National Security Council is purposeful in trying to create a managerial and policy process that develops the best national security policy for our Nation. The idea that a partisan political operative like Mr. Bannon should serve on the National Security Council runs counter to longstanding practice, and must, in my view, be reversed.

It is my hope that Lieutenant General McMaster has the vast experience and knowledge and the requisite temperament and independence to provide the national security expertise that is sorely needed in the White House.

Moreover, Lieutenant General McMaster must have the support and the backing of the President so it is clear that he runs the National Security Council on the President's behalf. That support is not yet apparent. According to Politico just a few days ago, the President overruled Lieutenant General McMaster's advice and chose to listen to Mr. Bannon and the President's son-in-law, Mr. Kushner, in regard to the retention of a key intelligence analyst who had been brought in by Major General Flynn. This is a worrisome sign that Lieutenant General McMaster might have a title and responsibilities but not the authority he needs. I indeed hope he has that authority and exercises it wisely.

I would also like to note that there have been reports about decisions Lieutenant General McMaster made as Commanding General at Fort Benning in allowing lieutenants under his command to attend schools while being investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct. I want to assure my colleagues that the Committee held a closed and classified executive session with Lieutenant General McMaster present to answer all our questions. The Committee thoroughly considered the facts and voted to confirm his third star by a strong bipartisan vote.

We are again taking a rather extraordinary step in voting on an Active-Duty military officer to serve as National Security Advisor for the first time in 25 years, but these are extraordinary times. Our Nation faces complex national security challenges, and 3 months into a new administration, we are on a second National Security Advisor already. We see a disorganized National Security Council and an enormous number of vacancies in the State and Defense Departments.

Lieutenant General McMaster has the opportunity to bring order to the chaos. Therefore, I believe the Senate should confirm his grade of Lieutenant General while he serves as National Security Advisor. [[Page S1826]]

I yield the floor.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. ____________________



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