The Senate today confirmed Eric Fanning to be secretary of the Army, making him the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military branch.
The confirmation of Fanning, who has been serving as the acting Army Secretary since November 2015, was eight months in the making.
After President Obama nominated Fanning for the post back in September 2015, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) put a hold on the nomination in an effort to pressure the administration against moving detainees from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility to a military base in his home state, Fort Leavenworth, as the White House had considered doing.
On Tuesday, Roberts came to the floor to announce that the Department of Defense had assured him that there was insufficient time left in President Obama’s tenure to execute such a detainee transfer to the mainland United States.
“I believe that because of last week, in a private meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, I received the assurances I needed to hear to release my hold on Mr. Fanning,” Roberts said on the Senate floor just before the unanimous vote to confirm Fanning.
“Practically speaking, the clock has run out for the president,” he continued.
The vote to confirm Fanning was by unanimous consent, meaning every senator agreed to support his confirmation before it came to the Senate floor.
Roberts added that he never had any personal animus against Fanning and that he believes he will do an excellent job as Secretary of the Army.
He said he spoke with Fanning this afternoon to let him know he was releasing the hold on his confirmation.
“I look forward to voting for Mr. Fanning who has always had my support for this position,” Roberts said.
The co-chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), released a statement congratulating Fanning.
“Secretary-Designate Fanning’s historic confirmation demonstrates that in America, we value hard work, talent and dedication. The capacity in which any individual can faithfully serve our country should not be limited,” she said.
Besides serving as the acting Army Secretary, Fanning has had many jobs at the Pentagon, including serving as Air Force under secretary, deputy under secretary of the Navy and deputy chief management officer of the Navy.