Grassley, Senate Republicans block Hagel confirmation

A cloture motion on the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for U.S. Secretary of Defense failed by a single vote today.  

Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley and most of his Republican colleagues voted against the cloture motion. Four Republicans joined the 55-member Democratic caucus to vote yes, but a cloture motion needs 60 votes to pass. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid then changed his vote to “nay” so that he will be able to bring Hagel’s nomination before the Senate again. In the end, the roll call was 58 to 40.

Blocking a cloture motion is generally known as a “filibuster,” but several Senate Republicans claimed today that they did not filibuster Hagel’s nomination. Rather, they delayed a final vote in order to have more questions answered.

“I think it’s appropriate to wait until we come back,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “I think there’s plenty of time to have any further questions answered, and I intend to vote for cloture then … he’d certainly get [my vote] and a number of others.”

Reid and the White House blasted Republicans for holding up the nomination, accusing them of playing politics at a time that a Defense secretary is sorely needed. […]

The White House had hoped Hagel would be in place after this week to attend a NATO meeting of defense ministers in Brussels next week. Now Panetta may take one more trip abroad before he retires back to California.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is staying on until a successor is confirmed, so the U.S. is not without a leader at the Pentagon. But it would be better to send the new secretary to meet with NATO counterparts, rather than the guy who’s headed out the door.

I’ll update this post as needed if I see relevant comments from Grassley or from Democratic Senator Tom Harkin.

P.S.- Senate Democrats were foolish not to move forward with Harkin’s version of filibuster reform.

UPDATE: Steve Benen said it well.

While the unprecedented nature of the move is important, there’s another contextual angle that’s been nagging me lately.

I always figured that if Senate Republicans were prepared to cross a line in the sand like this, they’d do it under more favorable circumstances. I can imagine the GOP minority getting worked up about a liberal Secretary of Labor nominee who wrote a letter to the editor of some left-wing magazine in 1979, and Republicans filibustering her to make some amorphous point about defending free enterprise.

But Chuck Hagel? President Obama nominated a red-state Republican for his cabinet, who also happens to be a decorated combat veteran, and he’s the guy GOP senators decide to use unprecedented obstructionism to try to block?

Republicans have never felt the need to filibuster a cabinet nominee, but they waited until a member of their own party was set to lead the Pentagon — during a war — and then they decided to pull out all the stops?

  • Hatch

    Was the GOP caucus going to punish a senior member like Orrin Hatch?  It’s a shame that John Hoeven and Chuck Hagel never got a chance to serve together, I think that would have put more pressure on Hoeven. Hoeven despite his conservative voting record always struck me as a reasonable guy.

    I understand why Kirk voted No on this.  National security issues are the only thing that a majority of the Illinois GOP can truly stomach him on.  Roy Blunt is moved far to the right, sure he’s a conservative, but he’s a guy who enjoys back slapping, cutting deals and the Washington scene as much as anyone.  He could have voted for this.  

    • Kirk is on borrowed time

      in the Senate anyway.

      I am surprised that so many Republicans who served with Hagel voted no. I did not expect that.

      • Ugly

        I think it just shows how ugly it’s gotten.  People impugn other people’s motives too much.  We need more independents in races to drag some of these candidates/Senators back to reality.  

        John Kerry who was swift boated day and night gets 97, 96 votes something along those lines.  Hagel who was more conservative than most in the Senate can’t get confirmed in a timely fashion.

        A lot of Senators  complain secretly about AIPAC and haven’t signed certain pronouncements regarding the Middle East.  This has to be John McCain leading the charge on this one, because there’s no way Hagel would threaten the national security of Israel.  McCain still calls him a friend, but then proceeds to list fifteen reasons why he feels Hagel is some sort of subversive.  

        Hagel is a cautious interventionist, they need to quit treating Hagel like he’s Ron/Rand Paul on foreign policy.  

      • This just on Taegan Goddard


        “There’s a lot of ill will towards Sen. Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly. At one point, he said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover, said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which is nonsense. He was very ‘anti ‘his own party, and people don’t forget that.”

        — Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in an interview on Fox News, explaining the GOP backlash against Chuck Hagel.


        • imagine if a personal grudge

          had inspired Democrats to filibuster George Bush’s nominee for defense secretary. Would be wall-to-wall outrage in the right-wing noise machine.

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