Three weeks after it dealt a fatal blow to the nomination of Defense Secretary-designate John Tower, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted unanimously Thursday to recommend approval of six-term Rep. Dick Cheney (R-Wyo.), President Bush’s second choice, for the job.
Cheney’s “high standards of personal conduct and integrity would help to restore public confidence in the integrity of defense management,” the committee declared in a report sent to senators after the panel’s 20-0 vote.
The committee’s rapid approval of Cheney, who was nominated for the job last Friday, clears the way for a vote early today by the full Senate. The chamber is expected to confirm Cheney with none of the acrimony or partisanship that characterized the three-week confirmation battle over Tower on the Senate floor.
“There have been many who have questioned our motives from time to time, and there certainly was proper grounds for disagreement,” Sen. J. James Exon (D-Neb.) said of the bitter fight over Tower. “But in the end, the process has worked. We should salute the President for his nomination of Dick Cheney.”
President Bush, during a question-and-answer session in Houston, said he was very pleased by the panel’s action.
The White House helped speed the Senate’s deliberations on Cheney by providing the Armed Services Committee with the FBI background report on Cheney and Office of Government Ethics statements testifying that Cheney has no financial or other conflicts of interest.
“The committee concludes that there is nothing in Rep. Cheney’s background, as reflected in the FBI investigation, that would render him unfit to serve” as secretary of defense, the panel reported.
Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee’s top-ranking Republican, said the material supplied to the committee “was overwhelmingly composed of reports which were totally supportive of this fine American.”
The committee, which has devised an exacting set of standards for future Defense Department nominees, also gave Cheney passing marks for his management credentials and his “solid understanding of the legitimate role of Congress.”
The panel said Cheney received “useful experience in management and administration” from his service as House minority whip, the second-ranking position in the House Republican leadership, and as White House chief of staff during the Gerald R. Ford Administration.
After weeks of delay before voting, 11 to 9, to oppose Tower’s nomination, the committee approved Cheney’s nomination during a session that lasted less than 10 minutes.
Staff writer James Gerstenzang contributed to this story from Houston.