Hagel Nomination Passes Cloture
Senate Republicans succeeded in stopping Chuck Hagel’s nomination just under two weeks ago, but when the Senate voted on cloture today, it wasn’t even close:
The Senate voted 71-27 on Tuesday to end debate on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to become secretary of Defense, ending a Republican rearguard campaign that forced Democrats to fight for every step toward confirmation, which is expected within the next day or so.
The former Republican senator from Nebraska needed at least 60 votes to clear Tuesday’s procedural hurdle, but only needs a simple majority to be confirmed, which Democrats can deliver with their 55 members, though a handful of Republicans are expected to support him.
It wasn’t immediately clear when Hagel will finally be confirmed, since Senate rules allow a member to delay final action temporarily after debate is ended.
On Tuesday, as a second cloture vote approached after Republicans blocked the first nearly two weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bemoaned all the delays, arguing Republicans had accomplished nothing.
“Twelve days ago the Republicans mounted a first of its kind filibuster on Sen. Hagel’s nomination. … What has the filibuster gained my Republican colleagues? Twelve days later, nothing,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “Politically motivated delays send a terrible signal to our allies around the world, and they send a terrible signal to tens of thousands of Americans serving in Afghanistan, other parts of the world and … in the United States.”
Still, even as they approached the vote they knew they’d lose, key Republicans stuck by their opposition. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he’d asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to stay on — or that he’d prefer former undersecretary of Defense for policy Michèle Flournoy or Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter — to Hagel.
And Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana and Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas both said the lingering controversy over Hagel was evidence in its own right that he should not take over the Pentagon.
“Sen. Hagel is clearly the wrong man for the job,” Cornyn said. “This isn’t about personality. This isn’t about politics. … He is the wrong man for the job.”
Majority Leader Harry Reid announced after the vote that he intended to go forward with the final vote at 4;30pm today. That vote will likely be much closer than the cloture vote since many Republicans who had announced their opposition to Hagel, including John McCain, ended up voting to invoke cloture in order to allow the vote to go forward today. In any case, I’d expect Senator Hagel to be confirmed later today.