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John McCain lifts threat to block Martin Dempsey confirmation

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

Sen. John McCain announced Tuesday that he was dropping his threat to block the confirmation of Gen. Martin Dempsey as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I’m not holding his nomination,” said McCain, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Dempsey has been nominated to serve a second two-year term as chairman.

On Monday, Dempsey wrote to McCain and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., outlining different scenarios involving U.S. intervention in Syria.

McCain was unhappy with Dempsey's response to questions about Syria, suggesting the chairman's report exaggerated the costs and resources needed for the U.S. to involve itself militarily in the civil war.

“This assessment… [is] beyond anything that any rational military thinker that I know would ever contemplate,” McCain said. “His answers are most disappointing because it has nothing to do with the realities of the challenges we face… “He’s described scenarios where it is impossible to intervene.”

Despite those differences, McCain said President Obama has the right to choose his own team, “as far as military advisors are concerned.”

Dempsey said in his letter Monday that scenarios involving the establishment of a no-fly zone or a safe zone in Syria could cost upwards of $1 billion a month.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close McCain ally, said that while cost was a “legitimate concern,” the cost of inaction was higher. Graham said that intervention “would be the best billion dollars we’ve ever spent, to change the tide of war.”