Senator John McCain today joined those questioning President Obama's nomination of a Raytheon executive to the second-ranking job at the Pentagon -- and his decision to grant him a waiver from new ethics requirements to limit the influence of lobbyists.
William J. Lynn III, Obama's pick to be deputy defense secretary under Robert M. Gates, was a registered lobbyist until last July and is now the Waltham-based defense contractor's vice president for government operations and strategy.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on Thursday he would delay considering Lynn's nomination until the White House provides more information on why he is exempt from the lobbying rules.
McCain, the ranking Republican on the committee and 2008 presidential nominee, said in a statement late this afternoon that he won't endorse Lynn until he has more details on when Lynn would recuse himself from certain issues.
"I am disappointed in President Obama’s decision to waive the 'revolving door' provisions of the executive order for Mr. Bill Lynn, his nominee to serve as Deputy Secretary of Defense,” McCain said in the statement. "While I applaud the President’s action to implement new, more stringent ethical rules, I had hoped he would not find it necessary to waive them so soon. Before I can determine whether to support his nomination as Deputy Secretary of Defense, I intend to ask him to clarify for the record what matters and decisions will require his recusal.”
UPDATE: Late today, the Pentagon said that Lynn had agreed to sell his stock in the military contractor and similar holdings but won't be forced to step back from decisions related to his former employer, the Associated Press reports.
Instead, Lynn's dealings at the Defense Department will be subject to ethics reviews for one year, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who requested Lynn as his deputy, did not want Lynn to have to recuse himself outright from all decisions involving Raytheon because it would severely limit his ability to do his job, Morrell said.
The decision seemed to satisfy Levin, who said he would support the nomination, the AP said. The panel "will continue to insist that Mr. Lynn comply with a strict set of ethics rules that we apply to all nominees, including the requirement to recuse himself, for a period of one year, from any decisions involving his prior employer, unless specifically authorized to participate by an appropriate ethics official," Levin said in a statement.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.