WASHINGTON — A confirmation hearing on the nomination of Mark Esper to be defense secretary is scheduled for Tuesday, in a bipartisan effort to fast-track a hearing and vote and install him in the office.
The pre-nomination paperwork was sent to the Senate Thursday. Committee members agreed to waive the usual seven-day waiting period between receiving the paperwork and an initial hearing.
“We need Senate-confirmed leadership at the Pentagon, and quickly,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “While we will act expeditiously to consider Acting Secretary Esper’s expected nomination, the Committee will uphold our constitutional advice-and-consent responsibilities with the care and consideration this position deserves.
“If we get the (official nomination) from the White House on Monday, we will have the hearing on Tuesday,” Inhofe said.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.,) the ranking committee Democrat, concurred in his own statement.
“We’re expediting the process, but there are no shortcuts and this nominee, like every nominee to this critical post, must be thoroughly vetted and carefully evaluated,” he said.
The Senate plan is to have the confirmation hearing, followed by a committee vote and then full Senate vote within a week — and certainly before the Senate leaves for August recess.
The Pentagon has been without a confirmed leader since James Mattis resigned on Dec. 31, 2018.
Patrick Shanahan, the Deputy Defense Secretary, was elevated to the acting defense secretary and President Trump said he would nominate him for the full job. That never happened and in June Shanahan withdrew from consideration and resigned his post as deputy following revelations of domestic incidents in his past.
Under the rules governing who can be in an “acting” position and for how long and when once an individual is nominated for a top post he or she cannot serve in the acting capacity.
Once Esper’s formal nomination reaches the Senate, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer will become the acting defense secretary — the third one this year.
At least 18 individuals are serving as “acting” in top Pentagon positions.