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Some Air Force Promotions Finally Clear Senate

Advancements held up by Idaho lawmaker in showdown over planes sought for military base.

June 13, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday approved the promotions of 127 Air Force captains and majors that had been stalled by Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) in a showdown over planes he wants at an Air National Guard base in his state.

Craig had been holding up 212 of the nominations but relented under pressure from the White House. He is continuing to delay approval of nominations of 85 colonels and generals, including Maj. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr., who was picked to lead the Air Force Academy, which has been damaged by a sexual assault scandal in recent months.

"Sen. Craig is still reserving his right on the rest of these holds until we are able to come to a conclusion," said Will Hart, a spokesman for Craig.

Craig put the holds on the promotions nearly three weeks ago and vowed to stall them until the Air Force honors a commitment to add four C-130 transport planes to complete a squadron at Gowen Air National Guard Base in Boise.

Craig said that in the last several years he had worked to secure $40 million in construction at the base in anticipation of the planes being relocated. The additional planes would bolster the Boise base's standing in the coming round of military base closures scheduled for 2005.

Senate rules allow any senator to delay action indefinitely on a nomination sent by the president for Senate confirmation.

Craig met with Air Force Secretary James G. Roche and White House representatives who acted as arbiters in the dispute, but no resolution was reached and there have been no meetings since, Hart said. There have been staff-level discussions, however.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has made it clear that the president wants the nominations to proceed.

"That's in part why the senator released the lower ranks of this field-grade list in deference to the White House position, but they are working with us, so that is a positive," Hart said.

Senate Armed Services Committee chief John W. Warner (R-Va.) said in a statement Thursday that he continues to work with Craig to resolve the issue, "since this is a question of fairness to many young officers, some of whom have fought recently in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a panel member, was more pointed, saying that Craig's holds were "completely inappropriate" and that the nominations "should not be caught in the cross-fire of a parochial dispute."

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