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Senate confirms two national security nominees before snow recess

Amid the brouhaha over Senators "holds" on Obama’s nominees, the Senate was able to confirm two national security related appointments Tuesday: Clifford Stanley and Philip Goldberg. Senators were scrambling to finish business Tuesday evening as the snowstorm descended upon Washington and threatened to close down Congress for the rest of the week. Next week’s President’s ...

Amid the brouhaha over Senators "holds" on Obama's nominees, the Senate was able to confirm two national security related appointments Tuesday: Clifford Stanley and Philip Goldberg.

Senators were scrambling to finish business Tuesday evening as the snowstorm descended upon Washington and threatened to close down Congress for the rest of the week. Next week's President's Day recess would follow right after, so Tuesday was the certain last day available to clear any pending business.

Amid the brouhaha over Senators "holds" on Obama’s nominees, the Senate was able to confirm two national security related appointments Tuesday: Clifford Stanley and Philip Goldberg.

Senators were scrambling to finish business Tuesday evening as the snowstorm descended upon Washington and threatened to close down Congress for the rest of the week. Next week’s President’s Day recess would follow right after, so Tuesday was the certain last day available to clear any pending business.

Stanley is now clear to become the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and Goldberg can now assume the post of assistant secretary of state for Intelligence and Research, the head of the INR bureau.

"The secretary of defense has been waiting for this, as I’ve indicated, for weeks and weeks… finally got that done," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV,  expressing his well-known frustration over the logjam of nominees due to holds.

Reid tried to "hotline" more nominations to clear the Senate before it adjourned, but only these two were able proceed without objections by the time Reid took to the floor to give his nightly closing remarks. Caryn Wagner, Obama’s nominee to become the top intelligence official at the Homeland Security Department, was also hotlined, but wasn’t able to be confirmed unanimously.

"What is that about?" Reid asked himself in his floor speech, "It’s about people trying to destroy our country… the most evil people in the world are coming, trying to do harm to Americans in our homeland. But… they’re holding him up because of something that no one really knows."

Reid called out Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn as being responsible for the Wagner hold, somewhat breaking protocol by naming the perpetrator of a "secret" hold.

"He was nice enough to call me and tell me," Reid said.

The nomination of Laura Kennedy is also being held up. Obama wants to give her Ambassador level rank ahead of her role as lead representative to the upcoming conference on disarmament.

Reid reiterated Obama’s threat to use recess appointment to get his choices seated if the Senate’s intransigence continues.

"I think, frankly, the president should recess all of them," Reid said.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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