The White House should expect that Rep. Ellen Tauscher's nomination to be undersecretary of State for arms control and international security will face rough waters in the Senate.
At a breakfast speech today, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) made a point of quoting some of Tauscher’s recent statements on missile defense and he made clear he did not like the idea of her taking the State Department position. Tauscher has made it very clear she is skeptical of the Groundbased Midcourse anti-missile system and wants to see much more system testing done. Kyl is one of the system's biggest boosters on the Hill.
During his speech this morning, Kyl noted wryly that Tauscher's ostensible new job requires Senate confirmation, a clear signal that he may place a hold on Tauscher's nomination. A congressional aide confirmed that Kyl is expected to place a hold on Tauscher’s nomination once it is formally made by the White House.
Kyl reflects conservative GOP opposition to Tauscher's views, and, generally, those of the Obama administration when it comes to missile defense. He called the administration's missile defense proposals, as outlined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his recent budget speech, "inexplicable as a matter of policy and dangerous." While Kyl did not oppose the migration of budgetary funds to tactical systems such as THAAD and Aegis, he opposed cuts to GMD and the boost-phase systems. Instead, he argued that missile defense cuts should not be made in light of the "frivolous and wasteful spending" contained in the Obama administration's economic stimulation bills.
Tauscher, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, is a tough, frankly spoken member some might cast as a Democratic version of John Bolton, the republican who was either notorious or beloved, depending on your politics. Bolton had very strong views about arms control, as Tauscher has strong views on missile defense. While Bolton was the right of the right wing, Tauscher is much closer to the right of the left. She is often identified as a Blue Dog Democrat, although she's not one today. Instead, she leads the New Democrat Caucus, which shares much of the Blue Dog approach to life but is less fiscally conservative.
Tauscher must have a pretty good idea just how much opposition she is likely to attract from Kyl and other conservative Republicans. When she announced she would take the arms control job in mid-March she said she faced a confirmation process that "is fraught with uncertainty and can take weeks, if not months."