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Senate committee votes to move forward with Larry Hall’s confirmation

Larry Hall at his confirmation hearing

Larry Hall was questioned Thursday at a Senate confirmation hearing. He is Gov. Roy Cooper’s appointee for Secretary of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

The fourth time was the charm for Larry Hall.

A Senate committee voted unanimously to confirm Gov. Roy Cooper’s choice to head the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs after questioning him for about an hour and a half.

A second Senate committee also approved Hall’s nomination and the full Senate will vote on whether to confirm him Monday.

Hall was subpoenaed to be at the hearing after not showing up for the previous three, believing he was following the law after a three-judge panel found that Cooper is to initiate the advice and consent process by formally notifying the Senate of his appointees.

The panel withheld a ruling on a request from Cooper’s attorneys to quash the subpoena, which is why Hall showed up. He broke the ice at the hearing by acknowledging his prior absences by cracking a joke about his microphone, which needed new batteries.

“Maybe it’s been on for a couple of weeks,” he quipped.

Senators and community members bellowed out a boisterous laugh. It was standing room only at the hearing, and many of the guests were veterans who turned out in regalia to support Hall.

Hall answered questions about his experience and qualifications for the position, potential and perceived conflicts of interest and his willingness to obey and uphold the law. He spoke a lot about his own and his family’s military experience, his plans for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and his employment history.

Hall’s priorities for the Department include creating veteran businesses and supporting veterans’ education. He also wants to maintain North Carolina’s military bases and add to them when possible and retain military talent.

He spoke at length about visits he made in the last week to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and conversations he had there about needs and issues.

Hall was also asked a few questions about the Amazon Wind Farm, which lawmakers have contended interferes with  military radar. He said the farm is not currently interfering with radar, but that moving forward they would record data to improve or sustain things.

Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Yancey) grilled Hall about his current status with the department, why he didn’t appear at the previous hearings and whether Cooper had directed him in any way to break the law.

Hall said Cooper did not direct him to appear at the hearing or not appear at the hearing. He also said that as an officer of the court and a lawyer, he was doing what he believed was legal, and that his interpretation of the court’s previous order was that the hearing was not properly before the committee.

“We may not agree, but we’re still bound by the same Constitution and the same courts,” Hall said.

He told Hise that he didn’t “prefer to be a pawn in the process,” but that he also wanted to make sure the executive and legislative branches were each doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Last week, Hise wanted to vote to deny Hall’s confirmation because his absences were disrespectful. When asked why he changed his mind this week, he said it was because Hall showed up.

Had he not been there, Hise said he would have made a motion to deny Hall’s confirmation. When asked about the trial next week and how it could affect Thursday’s process, Hise did not seem the slightest bit worried.

“The authority is clearly given to us in the Constitution,” he said of confirmation hearings. “I don’t see how the courts can play a role in that.”

After the hearing, Hall said he plans to be a dogged advocate for veterans. He added that the hearing, in his mind, was just a lunch break and he was off to continue the job he’s been doing.

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