Press-Republican

August 7, 2009

McHugh confirmation delayed

Confirmation as secretary of Army on hold until Sept.

By JOE LoTEMPLIO

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PLATTSBURGH — The confirmation of Congressman John McHugh as the new secretary of the Army has been delayed and may not happen for another month.

McHugh was slated to be confirmed Thursday by the full Senate, but several nominees of President Barack Obama were held up by two senators from Kansas.

The holdup is reportedly over the president considering sending detainees at Guantanamo Bay to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

The Kansas senators don't want the prisoners housed in their state.

Sources close to the confirmation process also say the two Republican senators are upset with McHugh, a fellow Republican, for taking the job offered by the Democratic president.

McHugh was picked by Obama on June 2 to lead the Army.

In his 16 years in Congress, McHugh represented Fort Drum, home to the much-utilized 10th Mountain Division. He was also the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee.

Kansas Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts said they wanted Fort Leavenworth taken off the list of possible sites for Guantanamo detainees, according to published reports.

Blocking the president's nominees was the only way they could get a response, they said.

The Senate recessed Friday and won't be back in session until September, when McHugh's confirmation will again be considered.

Inquiries to McHugh's office were directed to the Department of Defense, but Press-Republican calls to Army Public Affairs Office were not returned Friday.

With McHugh's confirmation now delayed, it is unclear when a special election will be held to fill his congressional seat.

Republicans have chosen St. Lawrence County Assemblywoman Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava as their candidate.

The Conservative Party officially tabbed Lake Placid businessman Douglas Hoffman as their candidate Friday.

Democrats are choosing Monday from a field of 11 candidates.

Franklin County Republican Party Chairman James Ellis said the delay in McHugh's confirmation should not affect the race.

"It just gives us more time, that's all," Ellis said.

The 23rd Congressional District covers 11 counties from Lake Ontario in the west to Lake Champlain in the east.

It is the largest district east of the Mississippi River.

E-mail Joe LoTemplio at: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com