The U.S. Senate has confirmed Robert Gates by a 92-2 vote to be the
next secretary of defense, with opposition Democrats expressing hope he
will steer a new course in the war in Iraq. When he takes the oath of
office - expected later this month, Gates will succeed Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, who has come under criticism from members of both
political parties for his handling of the war. VOA's Deborah Tate reports
from Capitol Hill.
A day after the Senate Armed Services Committee approved his
nomination, the full Senate late Wednesday easily confirmed Robert Gates,
a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Senator John Warner of Virginia, the outgoing Republican chairman of
the Armed Services Committee, said Gates would provide President Bush with
a fresh and honest perspective about Iraq and other pressing concerns:
"I am confident he will indeed be fearless, absolutely fearless, in
providing expert advice, professional advice, his own deep most inner-most
personal feelings, about the complex issues that face our nation and
indeed the world," he said.
Lawmakers of both parties praised Gates' candor during confirmation
hearings Tuesday, when he testified that he did not believe the United
States was winning the Iraq war. Although he said he did not believe the
United States was losing the war, he warned that the conflict could lead
to a regional conflagration if
Iraq is not stabilized over the next year or two.
Senate confirmation of Gates came on the same day that the Iraq Study
Group, a bipartisan group of experts, released a report concluding that
President Bush's policy in Iraq is not working and calling for the
withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by early 2008.
Democrats welcomed the recommendations, and called on Gates and
President Bush to implement them.
"We will now have a much needed change at the Pentagon," said Senator
Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat. "I know that members on both sides of
the aisle are eager to work with the new secretary to make more changes.
But ultimately, it is the president's responsibility."
Members of the Iraq Study Group are to discuss their recommendations at
a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday.