Senate Committee Postpones Vote on Biden Pentagon Pick for Policy Chief

Manchin still undecided on Colin Kahl, who called Republicans 'party of ethnic cleansing'

Biden nominee Colin Kahl and Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) / edited from Getty Images
March 16, 2021

Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee indefinitely postponed the vote on Colin Kahl's nomination for Pentagon policy chief, as Democratic senator Joe Manchin (W. Va.) remains undecided on the appointment.

Committee members were expected to vote on Kahl's nomination on Tuesday but has delayed the matter, according to sources close to the committee. The senators did meet on Tuesday for an unrelated hearing on U.S. Southern and Northern Commands.

Manchin, who would likely be the committee's deciding vote on Kahl, said he is "still looking at" the nomination when asked by CNN on Monday. Kahl has faced controversy—and strong Senate Republican opposition—because of his policy views on Iran and Israel and his inflammatory Twitter posts targeting the GOP and foreign-policy hawks.

West Virginia legislators and national pro-Israel groups have been flooding Manchin with calls urging him to oppose Kahl's nomination.

Christians United for Israel—the nation's largest pro-Israel group, which claims 77,000 members in West Virginia alone—launched an ad campaign in state and local newspapers last week asking readers to contact Manchin and object to the appointment, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

The ads featured a statement from group's West Virginia director, pastor Doug Joseph.

"Kahl's nomination may well hinge on one vote. And that vote will very likely be our state's own Sen. Joe Manchin," wrote Joseph. "Given his West Virginia values and common-sense approach to the Middle East, I am hopeful he'll make the right decision and decline to support such a misguided nomination."

On Friday, 70 members of the West Virginia House of Delegates wrote to Manchin urging him to vote against Kahl.

"The choice is clear, you can stand with West Virginia and our ally Israel or Colin Kahl and Iran—but you cannot support both," wrote Assistant Majority Leader Kayla Kessinger (R.) in the letter.

Manchin did not respond to a request for comment.

Manchin recently opposed Neera Tanden's nomination for Office of Management and Budget director over her partisan tweets, forcing the White House to pull her appointment due to lack of votes.

Kahl's Twitter posts have also drawn criticism. The former Obama State Department official has referred to the GOP as the "party of ethnic cleansing" and a "clown show" and approvingly linked to an anti-Israel blog that claimed the "Israel lobby" was trying to start a war between the United States and Iran.

A spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee did not respond to a request for comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.