McCain to block nomination of Gen. Dempsey

WASHINGTON Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday he will block Army Gen. Martin Dempsey's nomination for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff due to his dissatisfaction with the officer's responses to questions about the potential use of U.S. military power in Syria.

McCain pressed Dempsey during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide his personal opinion on which approach in Syria carries greater risk for U.S. national security interests: continued limited action on the part of Washington, or more significant steps such as establishment of a no-fly zone and arming rebel forces with the weapons they need to stem the advance of President Bashir Assad's forces.

Dempsey said that he has provided President Barack Obama with options for the use of military force in Syria. But he declined to detail those choices, saying that "it would be inappropriate for me to try to influence the decision with me rendering an opinion in public about what kind of force we should use."

During a testy exchange with McCain, the general added that he would "let this committee know what my recommendations are at the appropriate time."

Dempsey's response, McCain said, contradicted his commitment to provide the committee with his personal views, even if those opinions differ from the administration in power.

McCain told reporters after leaving the hearing room that he planned to put a hold on the nomination, essentially blocking any further Senate action until he gets an adequate response from Dempsey.

"I want to see him answer the question," McCain said. "Hello!"