One of the two Senate ‘holds’ blocking action on President Bush’s nominee to head the Army Corps of Engineers has been lifted. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) announced April 27 that he had removed his procedural hold on the nomination of Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, Jr., Bush’s choice to be Corps commander and the Army’s Chief of Engineers.
Louisiana’s other Senator, Mary Landrieu (D), who continues to have a hold on the nomination, plans to announce a final decision on April 30, after a scheduled afternoon meeting with Van Antwerp in Washington, says Adam Sharp, Landrieu’s communications director.
Under Senate procedures, any Senator can place a hold on a nomination, delaying a floor vote.
Vitter’s action came after the Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on Van Antwerp and the general responded to further written questions from Vitter. “I found his answers to my questions very assuring,” Vitter said. “Most important, Lt. Gen. Van Antwerp expressed support for my plan to expedite and streamline the approval process for important coastal restoration and protection projects.”
Landrieu had set three main minimum criteria for releasing her hold, says Sharp. They are: meeting with the state’s congressional delegation; visiting Louisiana to view the levee system in person; and meeting with local officials—all of which Van Antwerp has done. Sharp says the meeting with the state’s delegation was “very productive” and the feedback from local officials “has been generally positive.” But Sharp adds that Landrieu wanted to speak with Van Antwerp “one on one” and discuss the state’s flood control issues a bit further.
If the Senate confirms Van Antwerp to the top Corps position, he would succeed Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, who, according to Vitter’s office, is to step down on May 17.
Van Antwerp has led the Army’s Accessions Command since November 2004. Earlier he had commanded the Corps’ South Atlantic Division and its Los Angeles District.
The Senate Armed Services Committee cleared Van Antwerp’s nomination on March 15, but Vitter placed his hold soon after that and Landrieu followed a couple of weeks later.