The Senate unanimously confirmed Rep. Dick Cheney, R-Wyo., as defense secretary Friday, filling the final spot in President Bush's Cabinet.
Cheney's 92-0 approval as the nation's 17th defense secretary came just a week after his nomination and eight days after former Texas Sen. John Tower was rejected over questions about his drinking habits and links to defense contractors.The Senate vote on Cheney's confirmation followed on the heels of his 20-0 approval Thursday by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which whisked his nomination through in just 48 hours after the first White House paperwork arrived. Cheney filed the first of his paperwork Monday, and the FBI worked through the weekend to speed completion of his background check.
The six-term House member was praised in Friday's debate, talk that bore no resemblance to the near shouting matches that erupted over Tower, who was rejected 53-47 following two weeks of the most bitter personal and partisan debate heard on the Senate floor in years.
Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., who was instrumental in Tower's rejection, said, "All of us were in the mood to move expeditiously." But, he said, "We didn't take any shortcuts."
Sen. Malcolm Wallop, R-Wyo., noted Cheney's breadth of experience - from White House chief of staff to the House intelligence committee - and called his Wyoming colleague "a modest, self-confident Westerner."
Wyoming's other senator, assistant Senate Republican leader Alan Simpson, said Cheney has "a remarkable degree of common sense" and is "a realist, a pragmatist . . . the ultimate legislator."
Cheney's ascension to the Cabinet opened up two Capitol Hill jobs in one stroke. Wyoming must hold a special election to replace its only representative, and House Republicans must pick a new No. 2 man for their leadership.
The Pentagon has been without a defense secretary since Bush took office and the day-to-day business of the huge agency has been handled by Deputy Secretary William Taft IV.
With the Tower debacle behind it, the White House moved swiftly to start staffing the Pentagon. Taft submitted his resignation Friday, and the White House formally nominated Donald Atwood, who has been waiting for the top spot to be filled.
The White House said Cheney, 48, was expected to be sworn in early next week. But he was already effectively in charge of the $300 billion Pentagon and its 2.1 million uniformed personnel and 1.1 million civilian employees worldwide.