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Heather Wilson Air Force nomination set for vote Monday

A hold that was temporarily placed on former New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson’s nomination to become Air Force secretary has been removed and her final confirmation vote is now slated for Monday.

After reporting the hold earlier this morning, I was told that the hold has been removed and the Senate will vote on Wilson Monday. A Senate official with knowledge of the matter confirmed that in an email moments ago.

Although some members of the Senate Armed Services Committee questioned Wilson about her post-congressional contract work with Sandia National Laboratories she is widely expected to win confirmation. If confirmed on Monday, Wilson would be the first secretary of a military service branch to start work under President Donald Trump.

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A Democratic senator has put the brakes on former New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson’s nomination to become U.S. Air Force secretary, according to a report in Defense News.

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told the military trade publication this week that legislators need to “work through” questions about Wilson’s nomination before she can receive a confirmation vote.

It’s not clear which senator placed the so-called “hold” on Wilson’s nomination. Individual senators can delay nominations by requesting a hold from their party’s leadership in the Senate. Holds on nominations are usually resolved but they require additional procedural steps – such as the filing of a cloture motion that requires 60 votes – to clear a path to confirmation.

McCain told the publication that the snag was related to an Air Force base in the state of the senator who placed the hold, and that the issue was close to being resolved.

“There was one senator who had questions about a facility in her state, and so we are trying to work through that,” McCain told Defense News.

“That senator is being reasonable,” he added.

During her March 30 confirmation hearing, Wilson came under questioning for work she did for Sandia National Laboratories after leaving Congress in 2009.

A 2013 Department of Energy inspector general’s report found that Sandia, then run by defense giant Lockheed Martin, had inappropriately paid Wilson about $226,000 in consulting fees beginning in January 2009, to lobby for Sandia to take on new assignments for the federal government. Sandia and Wilson have said no prohibited lobbying occurred.

However, Sandia reimbursed the government more than $226,000 for fees paid to the consulting company run by Wilson, who was not mentioned in the settlement agreement between the Justice Department and Sandia Corp. Lockheed Martin later agreed to pay $4.7 million to settle charges that it used government money illegally to lobby top federal officials for an extension of its Sandia contract.

 

Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., is questioned in the Senate Armed Services Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Air Force earlier this year. (Courtesy of Sen. Martin Heinrich)

Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., is questioned in the Senate Armed Services Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Air Force earlier this year. (Courtesy of Sen. Martin Heinrich)

Wilson, 56, has been serving as president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City since 2013. She represented New Mexico in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1998 to 2009, serving on the Armed Forces and Intelligence committees. She lost a bid for the U.S. Senate to Democrat Martin Heinrich in the 2012 general election.

If confirmed, she would be the first of Donald Trump’s nominees to lead a military service branch to actually start the job. At least two other service branch nominees have withdrawn and Trump’s second pick to lead the Army is currently mired in controversy over statements he made about LGBT issues, Islam and evolution.

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