Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Wednesday predicted the easy confirmation of Defense Secretary-designate Dick Cheney as the Senate panel scheduled a vote for today.
The panel’s rapid consideration of Cheney, a six-term congressman from Wyoming, is expected to clear the way for his confirmation by the full Senate by this afternoon. Favorable Senate action on Cheney will fill a gap at the top of the Pentagon that has lasted almost two months.
Cheney appeared briefly before the committee in a closed-door session Wednesday morning to face further questioning on matters such as his health, finances and his lack of military service after the committee received financial documents, the FBI background check and White House reports.
After the session, Nunn called Cheney “very well qualified to be secretary of defense,” and said that he plans to support Cheney. “We found nothing in the financial report, nothing in the FBI report, nothing in our questioning of him that would in any way interfere with his ability to be secretary of defense,” he said.
“I don’t know of any opposition to him,” Nunn added.
The Senate panel has moved briskly to quell partisan strife stemming from the chamber’s rejection along party lines of John Tower for the top defense post. “I think there will be some bruises lingering but that will end,” Nunn said Wednesday.
Nunn defended the committee’s rapid consideration of Cheney, who was named by President Bush last Friday. Cheney’s brief confirmation process is sharply different from Tower’s.
“We’ve done exactly, in this case, what we did in the Tower case and others,” said Nunn. He added that the panel has received “very, very few” complaints about the nominee but that--if the committee believes that any such complaints are worth pursuing--"we will refer it to the FBI.”
Cites ‘National Security’
Further delay in the committee vote “would be an exercise in futility based on the information that we have now,” said Nunn. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), the committee’s ranking minority member, called an early vote on Cheney a matter of “national security.”
The Senate panel has focused particularly on Cheney’s health. After three heart attacks, Cheney last summer had a quadruple coronary bypass. In a letter to Nunn, George Washington University cardiologist Allan M. Ross wrote that Cheney has been cleared “to pursue unrestricted professional and recreational objectives.” Ross added that Cheney’s high blood cholesterol level has been treated with medications that will not affect his judgment or behavior.
Nunn said that the Senate panel has consulted other physicians, including a cardiologist, to verify Ross’ prognosis. “We’ve been told by doctors that we have all the information we need,” Nunn said.
Cheney, who met Monday with senior military leaders at the Pentagon, is expected to move promptly to begin work at the Pentagon.