Hawley threatens hold on Biden State, Defense nominees

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Hawley threatens hold on Biden State, Defense nominees

Sen. Josh Hawley is threatening to place a hold on all of President Biden’s civilian nominees for positions at the Department of Defense and the State Department at the secretary and deputy levels unless Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan resign over the administration’s chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Hawley argued that the Biden administration has failed to take responsibility for the botched withdrawal that led to the deaths of 13 US servicemembers and at least 100 Americans left stranded, and that his move is necessary to hold those at the top accountable.

“This was never necessary. It did not have to be this way and it shouldn’t have been. Joe Biden is responsible for today’s failure and now there must be accountability. Instead, the president’s team is even now coming to Capitol Hill and blaming others, shirking responsibility — that’s cowardly. And I, for one, am not willing to look the other way,” he said on the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon.   

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is threatening to place a hold on all of President Biden’s civilian nominees for positions at the Department of Defense and the State Department.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

“So let me be clear, I will not consent to the nomination of any nominee for the Department of Defense or for the Department of State until Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken and Jake Sullivan resign — leaders take responsibility for their failures and the failure of these individuals, the failure of this administration has cost Americans their lives and has left American civilians to the enemy. There must be accountability and there must be a new start.” 

In addition to calling for the administration officials’ resignations, Hawley went as far as calling for President Biden’s resignation over his “disgraceful” handling of the withdrawal, slamming his remarks calling the evacuation a “success.”

“This president is a disgrace. His behavior is disgraceful. He has dishonored this country with his shameful leadership in this crisis and it is time for him to resign,” he said. 

President Joe Biden
Josh Hawley argued that the Biden administration has failed to take responsibility.
REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

“And if he had the responsibility of leadership, he would resign for the crisis that he has himself led this nation into and the responsibility he bears for the lives that have been lost and for the American citizens who are even now as I speak trapped in Afghanistan, left to the enemy because of his failures and his shameful, disgraceful leadership.” 

Hawley’s vow to blockade nominees could lead to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to take procedural steps to confirm individuals who would likely easily pass by voice vote. 

The move comes as Blinken faced heated criticism from members on both sides of the aisle during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing, where lawmakers grilled the secretary on an array of missteps that critics argue alienated US allies, weakened the country’s ability to gather intel from adversaries in the region and potentially heighten the risk of an attack on the homeland. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing
Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about the Biden administration’s handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, September 14, 2021.
EPA/Drew Angerer / POOL

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who blasted the administration’s handling of Afghanistan during the hearing, rebuffed Hawley’s position arguing that failing to fill positions within the departments could undermine the country’s national security interests. 

“That would undermine U.S. national security and its interests,” he said, according to CNN. “That would be a brilliant idea on behalf of Sen. Hawley.”

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