President Obama’s chief of staff said Sunday that the White House had ‘‘grave concern’’ that national security was at risk, given the Senate Republicans’ delaying tactics in confirming both a new Pentagon chief and a director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The chief of staff, Denis McDonough, made the comment on ABC’s ‘‘This Week,’’ one of several Sunday shows where he made debut appearances as the top White House adviser.
He was reacting to the likelihood that neither former Senator Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee to be defense secretary, nor John O. Brennan, the president’s choice for the CIA, would get a Senate vote until late this month at the earliest.
Senate Republicans blocked Hagel’s confirmation on Thursday with the first-ever filibuster against a defense secretary nominee, citing his views on Israel, Iran, and Iraq, and his general unpopularity among some of them.
Separately, Republicans led by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator John McCain of Arizona have used senators’ prerogatives to hold up Brennan’s confirmation until they get more information from the administration about drone attacks and about its actions in the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.
With the Senate now on a 10-day recess, some Republicans have expressed hope that in the meantime conservative groups will find information in the effort to defeat Hagel.
‘‘It’s a grave concern,’’ McDonough said of the delay. ‘‘If you look at Chuck Hagel — decorated war veteran himself, war hero, Republican senator, somebody who over the course of the last many years, either as a Republican senator or as a chairman of the president’s Intelligence Advisory Board, I’ve worked with very closely. This guy has one thing in mind: how do we protect the country?’’
McDonough, who was formerly Obama’s deputy national security adviser, working under Brennan, added that ‘‘between John Brennan as the CIA director and Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, we want to make sure that we have those guys sitting in the chairs working. Because I don’t want there to have been something missed because of this hang-up here in Washington.’’
The White House and Senate Democrats have continued to express confidence that both men will be confirmed.
Democrats, who have the majority in the Senate, have enough votes to approve both nominees, but they do not have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster. With four Republicans joining Democrats to allow a vote on Hagel, he was just one vote short of overcoming the hurdle last week. — NEW YORK TIMES
Obama says drastic budget cuts will hurt middle class
President Obama is concerned about the effect that looming, drastic across-the-board budget cuts will have on the middle class, Denis McDonough, his new chief of staff, said Sunday.
Congressional Republicans predicted the cuts would start as scheduled next month and blamed Obama not only for doing little to stop them but for the idea itself.
The cuts, called the sequester, would drain $85 billion from the government’s budget over the coming seven months. Actual cuts may be around 13 percent for defense and 9 percent for other programs because lawmakers delayed their impact, requiring savings over a shorter period of time.
The White House last week released a list of ways Americans would feel the trims, from longer waits at airport security to as many as 13,000 teachers being laid off. — ASSOCIATED PRESS