Senate confirms Trump’s pick for defense secretary

Secretary of Defense nominee, Mark Esper, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on July 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. Esper has been Acting Secretary of Defense since Patrick Shanahan stepped down due to revelations about his past. Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images.

WASHINGTON — The Senate Tuesday voted overwhelmingly 90 to 8 to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of defense, Mark Esper, giving the Pentagon its first permanent chief since James Mattis stepped down in January.

While he received broad bipartisan backing, several Democratic presidential hopefuls including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren voted against Esper who had been Army Secretary and had briefly served as the acting secretary of defense after Trump’s initial pick to replace Mattis, Patrick Shanahan’s nomination dramatically imploded last month.

Following his confirmation vote Trump is expected to formally appoint Esper later on Tuesday and a Pentagon spokesman told reporters a swearing in ceremony is expected Tuesday evening.

Esper, a former army officer and West Point classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also worked as a senior staffer on Capitol Hill. Though he received broad bipartisan support he has received some criticism from at least one Democratic lawmaker over his ties to Raytheon, a major defense contractor, where he worked as a lobbyist.

The unprecedented length of time without a permanent secretary of defense had been cited as a problem by both Republican and Democrat lawmakers as well as veterans of the defense department.

A large number of senior roles at the Pentagon continue to lack permanent appointees.

Esper had to step down as acting secretary following his formal nomination due to regulations. Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer has been performing the acting role as Esper went through the confirmation process, making him the third consecutive acting defense secretary since Mattis resigned.

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