WASHINGTON — A Republican senator is vowing to delay President Joe Biden’s nominees to the State Department and Pentagon unless Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan resign over the administration’s handling of Afghanistan.
The threat from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., comes amid bipartisan congressional criticism of the Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal strategy. Hawley, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joins a handful of Republican lawmakers who have called for either Blinken, Biden or both to resign.
“His behavior is disgraceful,” Hawley said of Biden. “He has dishonored this country with his shameful leadership in this crisis. And it is time for him to resign. And if he had the responsibility of leadership, he would resign.”
Hawley cannot fully block any nominee, but he can force procedural delays that could snarl other Senate business and slow appointees from starting in their new posts.
In recent days, even lawmakers sympathetic to Biden’s decision to end America’s longest-running war by withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years have expressed disappointment and concern about the large number of Americans, green card holders and at-risk Afghans left behind in the chaotic and hasty evacuation from Kabul.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., blasted the Biden administration’s handling of the exit as “fatally flawed” and threatened to subpoena Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin if he doesn’t agree to testify “in the near future.”
Menendez also suggested he could place holds on defense confirmations in coming weeks if Austin fails to testify before his committee.
There are 15 State Department nominees awaiting floor consideration, among them the pick for assistant secretary for political-military affairs, who’d manage foreign military sales.
Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of the Army is the only Pentagon nominee on the Senate’s calendar after the Senate confirmed more than a dozen defense nominees before its August recess.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.