President Obama's chief of staff said Sunday that the White House had "grave concern" that national security was at stake, given the Senate Republicans' delaying tactics in confirming both a new Pentagon chief and a director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said on the ABC News program "This Week," one of several Sunday shows where he made debut appearances as top White House adviser, was reacting to the likelihood that neither former Senator Chuck Hagel, Mr. Obama's nominee to be defense secretary, nor John O. Brennan, the president's choice for the C.I.A. choice, would get a Senate vote until late this month at the earliest.
Senate Republicans blocked Mr. Hagel's confirmation on Thursday with the first-ever filibuster against a defense secretary nominee, citing his views on Israel, Iran and Iraq, and his general unpopularity among some of them. Separately, Republicans led by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator John McCain of Arizona have used senators' prerogatives to hold up Mr. Brennan's confirmation until they get more information from the administration about drone attacks and about its actions in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the American ambassador and three other Americans.
With the Senate now on a 10-day recess, some Republicans have expressed hope that in the meantime conservative groups would find new information in the effort to defeat Mr. Hagel.
"It's a grave concern," Mr. McDonough said of the delay. "If you look at Chuck Hagel -- decorated war veteran himself, war hero, Republican senator, somebody who over the course of the last many years, either as a Republican senator or as a chairman of the president's Intelligence Advisory Board, I've worked with very closely. This guy has one thing in mind -- how do we protect the country."
Mr. McDonough, who was formerly Mr. Obama's deputy national security adviser, working under Mr. Brennan, added that "between John Brennan as the C.I.A. director and Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, we want to make sure that we have those guys sitting in the chairs working. Because I don't want there to have been something missed because of this hang-up here in Washington."
The White House and Senate Democrats have continued to express confidence that both men will be confirmed. Democrats, who have the majority in the Senate, have enough votes to approve both nominees, but they do not have the 60 votes necessary to overcome any filibuster. With four Republicans joining Democrats to allow a vote on Mr. Hagel, he was just one vote short of overcoming the hurdle last week.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.