Republicans blocked a vote on the confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., for Defense Secretary on Thursday. What’s unclear is how long the filibuster will be maintained.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called out Republicans for mounting a challenge to Hagel’s nomination, saying on the floor of the Senate, “Not a single nominee for secretary of defense ever in the history of our country has been filibustered.”
Republicans claimed that their filibuster was motivated by a continued desire to get information about the death of Americans at the American consulate in Libya. Reid called those requests “extraneous.”
“The pattern has been clear for months: as soon as President Obama’s administration responds to one request, Republicans devise another, more outlandish request,” he said.
The odd part of the Republican’s filibuster was the open admission by many Republicans that they would be willing to advance Hagel’s nomination after a bit more time goes by. National Public Radio’s Todd Zwillich reported that Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said that he would vote against cloture in ten days, and that other Republican senators agreed with him.
This raises the obvious question: if Republicans will be willing to allow an up-or-down vote on Hagel in ten days, why not today? While the nation will not be without a Defense Secretary — Secretary Leon Panetta plans to stay on the job until Hagel is confirmed — there seems to be little reason, other than spite, to delay Hagel’s confirmation.
Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said that Hagel was being blocked for exactly that reason, noting that Hagel was a Republican who dared to take a heterodox approach to foreign policy. Lugar, who lost his seat when conservatives successfully defeated him in a primary, blamed the delay on Republicans who “regard his independent thinking as political blasphemy.”
Almost all observers expected Hagel to ultimately be confirmed.
“I’m confident that he will get the votes when we return [from break],” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
Republican Senators have gone to extremes in opposing Hagel’s nomination, going so far as to imply that Hagel, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, is anti-American. Certainly, Hagel does not believe in the neocon view of the world that animated the Bush Administration’s disastrous foray into Iraq. That, for more than a few Republicans, is a sin so grave that they cannot support him. For others, Hagel’s willingness to work with the horrible socialist tyrant Barack Obama is the red line.
If Republicans were so certain that Hagel was unfit to serve as Defense Secretary, they would have every right under Senate rules to continue to block his nomination. It might be wrong, but at least it would be principled. But their willingness to delay Hagel while conceding that they will ultimately allow his nomination to go through is simply petty. Once again, Republicans are putting political grandstanding ahead of good governance.
Image Credit: U.S. Navy
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