President Donald Trump announced Patrick Shanahan as his pick to lead the Pentagon a month ago, but his confirmation hearing is likely still a few weeks away.
That’s because Senate Armed Services Committee officials are waiting on an FBI background check and other formal paperwork from the executive branch before they can move ahead with the process, a move the panel’s chairman hopes will move quickly.
“I would like to do it soon, because I’m the guy who has been yelling and screaming that we have to have this nomination confirmed,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said Tuesday when asked about Shanahan’s status. “If you don’t have him confirmed, all these people he is dealing with don’t know if they are dealing with the right person. I have heard this personally.”
Earlier in the day, in response to news reports that the White House may be reconsidering Shanahan’s nomination, Trump said the decision was “done” and that the nominee “has to go through the process.”
Inhofe said the White House has clearly communicated its intent to make Shanahan the next secretary of defense, and the process so far has not raised any concerns for him.
He said getting the confirmation hearing finished and a full Senate vote scheduled before the July recess “would be pretty optimistic” but he is confident the work can be finished before August.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle for the last year have lamented the slow pace of nominations for numerous federal posts, including several other high-profile defense jobs.
Shanahan, who was confirmed as deputy secretary of defense by a 92-7 vote almost two years ago, was named the acting Pentagon head when former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was forced out of that Cabinet post on Jan. 1.
The 56-year-old nominee worked as an executive at Boeing prior to his work in the Trump administration and has received positive reviews from the commander in chief for his work overseeing and reforming Pentagon operations.
His reception on Capitol Hill has been less enthusiastic, with Democratic lawmakers questioning his industry ties and his backing of Trump’s controversial deployment of troops to the southern U.S. border.
Inhofe, who earlier in the year had criticized Shanahan, has offered strong support for him as the new defense secretary over the last few months. He has also repeatedly pressed Trump to move on the nomination, saying the uncertainty surrounding military leadership is hurting long-term planning and relationships with allies.
He said committee staff is hopeful they’ll be able to move ahead with scheduling a confirmation hearing date very soon.
“(The FBI check) could be really short on him, because he went through a check not long ago,” he said. “This shouldn’t take long.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.