This is why presidents bury big news during holiday weeks

After a busy day, I sat down this evening to write my “Iowa reaction to Chuck Hagel’s resignation” blog post.

Only problem was, more than twelve hours after the news broke, I couldn’t find any Iowa reaction. No press releases, no statements on Facebook or twitter from anyone in Iowa’s current Congressional delegation or newly-elected delegation.

Does that strike anyone else as odd? I would have thought the defense secretary resigning after less than two years on the job, probably under pressure from the president, possibly over disagreement with the administration’s approach to Iraq and Syria, would be big news. Remember, Representative Dave Loebsack sits on the House Armed Services Committee. Senator-elect Joni Ernst has claimed to have a strong interest in our country’s Middle East policy, since her “boots were on that ground” now controlled by ISIS. Senator Chuck Grassley served with Hagel for years and will have a vote on confirming his successor at the Pentagon. Newly-elected Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) both criticized the Obama administration’s policy in Iraq during this year’s campaign.

I will update this post as needed if I see some Iowa political reaction to Hagel stepping down. But at this writing, I got nothing.

This is why presidents bury big news during holiday weeks, when elected representatives and their staffers are out of the office.

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Harkin, Grassley split as Senate approves Chuck Hagel

The U.S. Senate voted today to confirm Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense by 58 votes to 41. Although Hagel is a Republican, all of the votes against his confirmation came from GOP senators, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley. The entire Senate Democratic caucus, including Tom Harkin, voted to confirm Hagel, joined by four Republicans.

Earlier today, a cloture motion on Hagel’s nomination easily passed by 71 votes to 27 (roll call). Just 60 votes were needed to pass the motion. Grassley was one of the 27 Republicans who tried to filibuster Hagel’s nomination. Their effort failed because 18 Senate Republicans voted for cloture; most of them later voted against confirmation.

The 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, led by Nick Ryan of Iowa, was one of the big spenders in the effort to defeat Hagel’s nomination. After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from a good piece explaining why the campaign against Hagel was a “win-win” for “dark money groups,” even though they failed to prevent his confirmation. I’ll update this post as needed if I see comments from Grassley and Harkin.  

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Grassley among senators seeking memos on targeted killings (updated)

A bipartisan group of senators including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley sent President Barack Obama an open letter this week asking for access to “secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations.”

UPDATE: The Obama administration will provide “classified Office of Legal Counsel advice” on this issue to members of Congressional intelligence committees. I agree with Grassley that judiciary committees should be included as well, since they oversee the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Worst Obama nominee ever?

The U.S. Senate is about to get bogged down in a debate over whether Chuck Hagel is pro-Israel enough to be President Barack Obama’s secretary of defense. An amusing sideshow will feature Republicans appalled by Hagel’s anti-gay remark about a 1998 nominee of President Bill Clinton. After much time is wasted, senators will confirm Hagel to run the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, there is likely to be little debate over Obama’s most appalling nominee yet: John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. I don’t have much to add to concerns the American Civil Liberties Union and Glenn Greenwald raised yesterday. It’s bad enough that the Obama administration is still doing renditions, spying on Americans without a warrant, and escalating its use of drone strikes that kill many civilians. The president is promoting his top terrorism adviser, who’s deeply associated with those policies, and it’s not even a controversial appointment. The Senate should have a real debate about this policy but won’t. Greenwald noted, “the reason Obama needs a new CIA chief is because David Petraeus was forced to resign. Here we see the ethos and morality of imperial Washington: past support for torture and rendition does not disqualify one for a top national security position; only an extramarital affair can do that.”

Any comments about Obama’s cabinet appointments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Senator Chuck Grassley commented on Hagel’s nomination today but did not say whether he plans to vote for or against confirming him.

Apparently Brennan denies having supported torture as U.S. policy, but he is on record backing “coercive methods” of interrogation.

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