The ongoing divisiveness between Republicans and Democrats in Congress played out once again in the confirmation vote of Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel. In an unprecedented move, GOP Senators have opted to obstruct Hagel’s ascent to President Barack Obama’s cabinet by employing the first filibuster of a Defense Secretary nominee ever.
Although Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, has been praised by members of his party in times past, the New York Times reports that the move was largely symbolic. With a final tally of 58 to 40, Senate Democrats did not have the necessary 60 votes to advance Hagel’s nomination. As noted in President Obama’s online chat from yesterday, there is no rule that states that a specific number of votes are necessary.
Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has all of the qualifications to lead the Pentagon and shore up Obama’s national security team. At issue for Republicans were details concerning the Benghazi attacks, the same issues that dogged former Secretary of State nominee Susan Rice ahead of John Kerry taking the job.
Also, Hagel’s confirmation hearing from earlier this year was a stumbling performance in where he bungled on the White House’s stance on Iran’s nuclear dealings and is still haunted by anti-Semitic claims based on his criticism of Israel’s war policies.
Republican Senate leaders Lindsey Graham and Lamar Alexander said they will vote for cloture – an end to the nomination debate – and proceed with the confirmation of Hagel after the President’s Day recess.