WASHINGTON – The Senate voted Friday to confirm a new Pentagon spokesman, months after President Bush bypassed the Senate to install him in the job.
Senators approved the nomination of Dorrance Smith, a former ABC News producer, to be assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. The vote was 59-34.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., had held up the nomination because of a newspaper opinion article in which Smith accused U.S. television networks of helping terrorists through their partnerships with Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera.
The job of Pentagon spokesman had been unfilled since Victoria Clarke quit the post in June 2003. Bush used a recess appointment in January to circumvent the Senate and put Smith in the job. Until then, Lawrence Di Rita, an aide close to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, had been interim spokesman.
Also Friday, the Senate voted against allowing the nomination of another Pentagon official — Peter Flory as an assistant secretary of defense for international security policy — to advance. The vote was 52-41, eight shy of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate on the nomination.
Levin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has stalled Flory's nomination in a dispute over release of intelligence-related documents about the Iraq war that Levin sought from the Pentagon.
Last year, Bush used a recess appointment to install Flory in the post. It hasn't been filled by a Senate-confirmed official since J.D. Crouch left in 2004.