WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to confirm William Lynn as deputy defense secretary, endorsing President Barack Obama's decision to waive ethics regulations by putting a former defense lobbyist in charge of day-to-day operations at the Pentagon.
Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Charles Grassley of Iowa expressed reservations before the Senate voted 93-4 to approve the nomination.
McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was disappointed that Obama would backtrack on his promise to keep lobbyists out of the federal government. Despite his reservations, McCain voted in favor of Lynn.
On his first day in office, Obama issued an executive order forcing individuals to wait two years before they could be hired for the agencies they had lobbied and to remove themselves from involvement in issues related to their former employers.
"Obviously the American people were promised one thing but delivered another," said McCain, Obama's opponent in the 2008 presidential election.
Grassley, who voted against confirmation, called into question Lynn's work as Pentagon comptroller during the Clinton administration.
As chief financial officer, Lynn "advocated very questionable accounting practices that were obviously not in the public interest," Grassley told his colleagues on the Senate floor.
Lynn was registered until July as a lobbyist for Raytheon Co., where he advocated for six programs: the Navy's new generation of destroyers called the DDG-1000 surface combatant; the advanced medium-range air-to-air missile; radar for the F-15 fighter jet; a new version of the Army's Patriot anti-missile program; the classified satellite network called the Future Imagery Architecture system, and the Multiple Kill Vehicle, a technology designed to counter ballistic missiles.
Lynn has promised to remove himself from decisions involving these programs for one year. He also has promised in a recent letter to McCain that he would seek written permission from Pentagon lawyers for one year when "circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question my impartiality."
Opposing Lynn were Grassley and fellow Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Cornyn of Texas. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri was the sole Democrat voting no.
Not voting were Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Judd Gregg, R-N.H. One Minnesota seat is vacant.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was pleased with Lynn's confirmation and eager to begin working with him "on the many difficult issues confronting this department, especially the need to devise a responsible and credible defense budget in the midst of this economic crisis," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.