Senate confirms former lobbyist as Defense deputy
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed William Lynn, a Raytheon executive and former company lobbyist, to be deputy Defense secretary by a 93-4 vote.
At the same time, two Senate panels approved the nominations of Leon Panetta to head the CIA and Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., as Labor secretary, sending both appointments to the Senate floor for votes this month.
Lynn's confirmation came after several senators, including Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed concerns in recent weeks about the former lobbyist taking over the Pentagon's No. 2 slot.
McCain ultimately dropped his objections and supported Lynn for the post after Lynn provided additional details about his lobbying activities and how that might affect his performance.
But Lynn still faced opposition on the floor from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who raised concerns about Lynn's connections to Raytheon, one of the country's largest defense contractors. And Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, criticized policies Lynn adopted while serving as the Pentagon's chief financial officer during the Clinton administration.
"At this point, we simply don't know what Mr. Lynn will do. I don't own a crystal ball. That's all in the future. That's an unknown," Grassley said in his prepared floor remarks. "But we do know something about what he did in the past as the DoD CFO. As CFO, he advocated very questionable accounting practices that were not in the public interest."
Aside from Coburn and Grassley, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., also voted against Lynn's nomination. McCaskill, a former state auditor, raised concerns about Lynn's lobbying background during his Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing last month.
Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved Solis' nomination as Labor secretary by voice vote.
The Senate will vote on her confirmation as soon as possible, said a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., but Republican opposition could push it past the Presidents Day recess. Two committee Republicans -- Coburn and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas -- recorded "no" votes in the HELP Committee. Their opposition would prevent Solis from being confirmed by unanimous consent.
The Senate Intelligence Committee's approval of Panetta for CIA director came during a closed meeting, said panel spokesman Philip LaVelle. Panetta, a former House member and White House chief of staff, was approved without opposition, he said. The full Senate is expected to confirm Panetta this week.