Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) was approved by the Republican Conference Wednesday to become the next chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, giving the Trump administration a strong supporter leading a powerful committee.
Inhofe replaces the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who died on August 25. The full Senate is expected to formally affirm Inhofe’s selection this week.
“I am deeply honored that my colleagues have selected me to lead the Armed Services Committee,” Inhofe said in a statement.
“America is facing new and unprecedented threats that are different from anything we’ve seen before. As chairman, it will be my priority to address these threats while maintaining a staunch commitment to service members and their families, as well as continue the bipartisan tradition of rigorous accountability and oversight of the Defense Department,” he said.
“I look forward to working with Ranking Member [Jack] Reed and the entire committee as we continue to ensure our military is ready and able to defend America against growing threats from around the world.”
The move will make Inhofe the first chairman from Oklahoma. He has served on the committee since 1995.
Inhofe, although a strong supporter of Trump, shares the former chairman’s hawkishness against adversaries Russia, China and Iran.
He led a Senate delegation to Poland earlier this year to visit U.S. troops and meet with officials.
“By visiting with our troops and partners in the region, it confirmed the importance of strengthening our diplomatic and military presence in Eastern Europe to counter Russia’s increasing reach and influence. I look forward to working with the Trump Administration to advance our ties even further,” he said the trip in May.
Inhofe opposed the Iran nuclear deal, and applauded reimposing sanctions on Iran after Trump pulled out of the deal. Like Trump, he also believes in NATO burden sharing, stating earlier this year: “President Trump is right to strongly encourage all of our NATO allies to meet their commitment to defense spending under the collective security obligations.”
He has said he believes the Afghanistan strategy is working, but that the United States needs to “remain clear-eyed” about Pakistan’s “continued support for the Taliban.”
He has applauded the Trump administration’s tougher approach to China, and is a strong supporter of providing Taiwan with the newest defense equipment, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. He has also been a strong supporter of Trump’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), fellow member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Thursday:
“While I will deeply miss the friendship and leadership of the late Senator John McCain, I am pleased to see Senator Inhofe serve as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. As a fellow Army veteran, I know Senator Inhofe has the experience and tenacity to lead and prioritize the needs of our servicemembers. I congratulate Senator Inhofe and look forward to working with him in his new role as the leader of a committee that is vital to our national defense.”
This story has been updated with a statement from Ernst.