McHugh confirmation moves forward

WASHINGTON - Following a month-and-a-half delay, the Senate has approved the appointment of North Country Congressman John McHugh as Secretary of the Army.

McHugh was announced as President Barack Obama's choice for the cabinet position June 2. Since then, potential candidates have been lining up to make a run for his vacant Congressional seat, but have been waiting for the Senate to formally confirm him.

Since 1993, McHugh has represented New York's 23rd Congressional District, which spans 11 counties across the northern tier of the state, including Franklin, Clinton, and most of Essex County. Elected to his eighth term in 2008, he was ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

McHugh's appointment had been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in early August, and was subsequently introduced for Senate approval, but the decision was blocked by Senators Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, and Sam Brownback, R-Kansas.

The two reportedly put a hold on the confirmation of McHugh and several other presidential appointments in order to protest a supposed White House plan to move Guantanamo Bay detainees to Fort Leavenworth, a military base in Kansas.

Roberts and Brownback agreed to let the confirmation go forward, however, after discussions with senior White House officials.

"In a good faith effort to continue moving this dialogue forward, we are releasing our holds on all Department of Defense and Department of Justice nominees," the Kansas Senators wrote in a joint press release. "We are confident that because of this good faith dialogue, detainees will not be transferred to Fort Leavenworth."

His appointment was unanimously confirmed in the Senate the evening of Sept. 16. He now only awaits the President's signature to resign as a Congressman and take the position of Army Secretary.

With the seat now officially vacant, Governor David Paterson is soon expected to announce a special election to fill out the remainder of McHugh's term. Many anticipate the date will be set as Nov. 3, the same as the general election for local offices.

Major candidates have already been nominated for the empty seat. Republicans chose Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, R-Gouverneur; The Conservative Party selected Douglas Hoffman, a Lake Placid accountant; and Democrats tapped Plattsburgh lawyer Bill Owens.

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