WASHINGTON – The Biden administration's nominee for top Pentagon policy adviser was met with sharp criticism from Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, including accusations that he has been too partisan.
Colin Kahl, who served as national security adviser to then-Vice President Joe Biden during the Obama administration, faced repeated questions on his previous support for the Iran nuclear deal and how he would approach that issue now. And a number of GOP senators said they were troubled by partisan tweets Kohl put out during Donald Trump's presidency and they would oppose his nomination. It wasn't clear whether there was enough opposition to derail his nomination.
“We know that there is a new administration and that we will have policy disagreements that we will all try to work through,” said the ranking Republican on the panel, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. “But how will you rectify the fact that many Americans, including those who work at the Department of Defense, know you only through your very partisan comments? How can we be confident that you will be a model of nonpartisan policy analysis — which is what the job requires — if you are confirmed?”
Kahl said he worked on a bipartisan basis in his previous jobs in the Obama administration, which included a stint as deputy defense secretary for Middle East issues at the Pentagon from 2009 to2011. And he told the panel, “This is not a political job, it’s a policy job ... I have a long track record of putting politics aside and working on policy.”
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and others read a number of Kahl's tweets that condemned Republicans and the Trump administration. Cotton said the “volatile” tweets would hurt his ability to work with Congress, adding “your judgement around war and peace are almost always wrong.”
In response, Kahl offered an apology, saying the last few years have been politically polarizing and there were times he got swept up in that on social media.
“There were a number of positions that President Trump took that I strongly opposed,” he said. "I think the language that I used in opposing those was sometimes disrespectful, and for that, I apologize.”
Kahl got broader support from Democrats, including Sen. Maizie Hirono of Hawaii, who chastised committee members for slamming Kahl's tweets.
““That kind of criticism regarding tweets from folks who didn’t say anything about the kind of lying, racist tweets out of the former president, I think, is pretty rich,” she said.
Others, including the panel chairman, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., sought commitments on improving Pentagon policies and relations with other countries that soured during Trump's tenure. Reed said he hoped that Kahl would help establish a strong defense policy office to ensure there is a unified effort on national security challenges and to repair ties with NATO and other allies.