Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas dropped his objection Tuesday to the nomination of Eric Fanning to be secretary of the Army, and the Senate swiftly moved to confirm him.
Fanning, 47, who is the first openly gay chief of any branch of the armed forces, was nominated by President Barack Obama in November and confirmed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.
Roberts had blocked his full Senate confirmation, citing Obama’s plan to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and possibly transfer some of the detainees to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Fanning, 47, is the first openly gay chief of any branch of the armed forces.
On Tuesday, Roberts said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work had assured him in a May 10 meeting that the clock had run out on any effort to bring Guantánamo detainees to Kansas.
Roberts was hardly alone in his opposition to Obama’s Guantánamo policy. Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Tim Scott of South Carolina had also objected to the potential transfer of the detainees to their states.
Roberts, however, was the lone obstacle in the path of Fanning’s confirmation.
In a somewhat testy exchange on the Senate floor last month, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized Roberts for standing in the way but offered to work with him to address his concerns in an appropriations bill to fund the Defense Department.
I believe Eric Fanning will be a tremendous leader for the Army, including those who serve at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley in my state.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
On Tuesday afternoon, with little fanfare, Roberts stood down.
“Because of assurances given to me by the Department of Defense and Congress’ continued opposition, today I have lifted my hold on the nomination of Eric Fanning to be the secretary of the Army,” Roberts said on the floor.
“My hold was never about his courage, character or capability, but rather about our nation’s security if the detainees were moved to Fort Leavenworth,” he continued. “I believe Eric Fanning will be a tremendous leader for the Army, including those who serve at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley in my state.”