February 14th, 2013
11:28 AM ET
1 year ago

Republicans stall Hagel nomination

(CNN) – The Senate failed to garner enough votes Thursday to stop a filibuster against Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel.

Fifty-eight voted to move forward with the nomination, while 40 voted to hold it up. One senator, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, announced present, and Republican Sen. David Vitter missed the vote.

Democrats needed 60 votes to end a filibuster, but the move failed due to GOP opposition surrounding questions about Hagel's finances, as well as remaining tension between some Republican senators and the White House over the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.

The chamber largely voted along party lines, with the exception of four Republicans who voted with Democrats.

Republicans, however, signaled they're willing to allow the nomination to proceed after recess, when only a simple majority of 51 votes are required to stop a filibuster. The Senate is not in session next week.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin's office announced the Senate will take up another vote to move forward on Hagel on Tuesday, February 26.

Filibusters of cabinet officials are extremely rare, largely because senators typically believe a president has a right to pick the leaders of his government.

"I regret that Republican senators, except the valiant four, chose to filibuster the nomination," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor. "Republicans have made an unfortunate choice to ratchet up the level of destruction here in Washington. Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, it gets worse."

The White House sent a letter to Capitol Hill Thursday stating that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Libyan President Mohammed Magariaf the same night as the attack. President Obama, according to the letter, did not speak to the Libyan president until the evening of the day following the violence.

Read the letter obtained from a Democratic official here.

Before committing to vote on Hagel's nomination, three GOP senators–Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte–had demanded answers about the attack in a letter Tuesday to the Obama administration. Graham publicly stated that he was specifically asking whether Obama called Libyan officials on the night of the attack against the consulate in Benghazi, which left four Americans dead.

The administration had been wary of responding-saying the GOP was simply moving goal posts-but the response was a sign they were losing patience and getting nervous about the Hagel nomination.

Showing further scramble on the part of the White House to keep Hagel afloat in the confirmation process, Vice President Joe Biden made calls Thursday to Republican senators about the nominee, according to a senior Democratic source.

Hagel has been battling his way through a rocky nomination process. Democrats were at one point confident they had the 60 votes, including five Republicans, needed to stop a GOP filibuster, but concerns suddenly escalated Wednesday when McCain said he was reconsidering his previous commitment to vote against a filibuster.

McCain, R-Arizona, said Thursday evening on Fox News that Republicans approach to the Hagel vote was colored by past experiences.

"To be honest with you ... it goes back to [that] there's a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and [said] he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover and said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which was nonsense," McCain said. "He was anti-his own party and people. People don't forget that."

McCain now says he's satisfied with the answers the White House provided to questions about Benghazi and that he is in negotiations to get answers about Hagel's finances. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other GOP senators want to know the source of Hagel's income in the years after he left the Senate.

"I think it was an adequate response, yes," McCain said about the Benghazi matter. "We are working on and having negotiations now trying to smooth this thing out and get it done."

But he later said on the Senate floor that will vote "no" to ending the filibuster on Thursday. He will, however, vote "yes" after recess.

"That is sufficient time to get any additional questions answered and I will vote in favor of cloture on the day we get back and I believe that my colleagues, enough of my colleagues will do the same," he said. A cloture vote would allow the nomination to proceed.

Graham, R-South Carolina, agreed and also told reporters he would vote for cloture after recess unless some huge "bombshell" comes out over the next week. His comments signaled that the votes will be there for Hagel when the Senate resumes session the week after next.

Multiple Republican senators told CNN earlier Thursday that they also planned to vote against ending a filibuster, saying the vote is too rushed with outstanding questions. When they hold a filibuster vote after the chamber gets back from recess, then they will allow the nomination to go through and the Senate can hold an up-or-down vote on Hagel.

Democrats, on the other hand, see this as a time to make it seem like Republicans are opposing Hagel for political reasons and holding the filibuster vote Thursday, as opposed to after recess, would further illustrate that objective.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of the few lawmakers to go against her own party on the vote, said she voted for cloture because "I said I was not going to support a filibuster, and I stuck by my word." Murkowski was one of the senators who spoke with Biden on Thursday.

Susan Collins of Maine, another Republican senator who voted yes, said she thinks the president should be able to choose his own cabinet. But she plans to vote no on Hagel when it comes to an up-or-down vote.

Reid took to the Senate floor on Thursday morning, building pressure on Republicans to back off of their threats. He added that the letter sent from the White House answers "all their questions."

"This isn't a high school getting ready for a football game or some play that's being produced at the high school," he also said. "This is, we're trying to confirm somebody to run the defenses of our country, the military of our country."

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says he will remain in his position until a defense nominee is "sworn into office," a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.

Administration officials and Congressional Democrats said they were on the phone late into the night Wednesday discussing how to get Republican votes. The sources said the administration had been told they did not have enough GOP votes to gain the necessary 60 to stop a filibuster.

Meanwhile, some questioned whether Hagel would withdraw his nomination. But one senior administration official said that idea is "insane."

Referring to the GOP, the official said, "No one knows what they really want. There is nothing real to be had."

"They wanted testimony from (former Secretary of State) Hillary Rodham Clinton and Leon Panetta and they got it...there is nothing real to be had," the official continued.

Hagel's brother Tom, a law professor who's in constant contact with his brother, also said Hagel will not withdraw his name.

"Knowing him, not only will he not withdraw, but he will be motivated to fight harder," he said.

Asked Wednesday in a press conference whether the GOP was moving goal posts on the issue, Graham gave a firm "no."

"I'm gonna hit you, and keep hitting you," he vowed. "Absolutely. You're not going to get away without answering the basic questions. Did you make a phone call on September 11th to any Libyan government official using the weight and the voice of the president of the United States to help these people in their time of great need."

Speaking aboard Air Force One, however, White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest stressed earlier Thursday a sense of urgency in filling the new defense secretary position.

"It is difficult to explain to our allies why exactly that is happening. It also sends a signal to our men and women in uniform who are currently deployed around the world and who are currently serving in the frontlines of Afghanistan and are taking fire today," he told reporters. "They need a new secretary of defense. So we urge Republicans in the Senate to drop their delay."

– CNN's Athena Jones, Barbara Starr, and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

soundoff (948 Responses)
  1. freedom

    "It is difficult to explain to our allies why exactly that is happening. It also sends a signal to our men and women in uniform who are currently deployed around the world and who are currently serving in the frontlines of Afghanistan and are taking fire today," he told reporters. WHAT???!! Since when does this administration care about the men and women in uniform?? They let 4 of them die in a burning consulate and then the Ambassador was dragged through the streets of Libya. The president is going to have to answer these questions. It's not going to go away. He's backed himself into a corner and there's no one left to hide behind.

    February 14, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  2. Solomon

    So, they all voted for John Kerry to be SoS, but are blocking Hagel's nomination for DoD over an issue related to the State Department. Yep, that makes sense

    February 14, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  3. jeff

    I can't believe that people do not want to believe that this President is hiding somthing, how hard is it to say yes or no, as to whether her called Libya that night or not. The face that he didn't even mention Benghazi or his guy Chris Stevens during the STOU, tells me that he wants it behind him. he talked about Gabby Giffords getting shot 2 years ago, and Stevens died less that 6 months ago. Somthing is not right!!!!!

    February 14, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. Florida Joe

    How come these three clowns never asked Bush about the intellegence he received PRIOR to 9/11????????
    Where was their outrage when 3000 people died?

    February 14, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  5. Madisongal

    The White House thinks it's unaccountable to no one, someone has to stand up for those who were killed in Libya. Thank you Sen. Graham, Sen. McCain and Sen. Ayotte.

    February 14, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  6. BlueAlliance

    This is pure obstructionism.....this is why the GOP lost the election! They are so overcome with anger and hate and I think jealousy of Obama, as he is intelligent and works very hard for the people. John McCain and Lindsay Graham need to be votted out in 2014 and after this most recent display of obstructionism I'm sure the public will take note. Presidents are permitted to choose their own cabinet members and not have it controlled by the opposite party for political reasons. If this continues, 'we the people' need to make our voices heard as what the GOP is doing, is nullifying the recent elctorial vote.It's obvious that the GOP has no respect for the American people's choice in the last two elections and will do everything in their power to obstruct the president and try to bring him down, after all, how can a 'food stamp lazy' president be the leader of the free world!!

    February 14, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  7. AZ Girl

    Sorry contrary to some beliefs Democrats work and it interrupts! The rest is Nomination Hearings are NOT the venue for this. I get a mental pucture of little boys crossing their arms, stomping their feet, and refusing to budge, because they didn't get their way.

    Mr. McCain, as one of the people that you are SUPPOSED to represent, get over it and do your job, as I need to go do mine.

    February 14, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  8. n, tx

    Mc Cain u are old and forgetting please retire, Republican u all aamericanre playing a stupid game I hope American people vote u all out.

    February 14, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  9. lottie

    the repo party is not right.!!!!! Jeff. looking for monsters where there none. Just another ploy by the same trio of jerks that want to hold up every nomination. How many times do they have to hear the same stuff. These tired old men should retire.

    February 14, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. Thomas

    Rice , are you kidding me .

    I'm sure Stanford would like to see here back in DC . The poster lady for Neocon male arrogance .

    Condoleezza Rice / Paul Wolfowitz
    We can do it right this time 2016

    February 14, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. rs

    jeff

    I can't believe that people do not want to believe that this President is hiding somthing, how hard is it to say yes or no, as to whether her called Libya that night or not. The face that he didn't even mention Benghazi or his guy Chris Stevens during the STOU, tells me that he wants it behind him. he talked about Gabby Giffords getting shot 2 years ago, and Stevens died less that 6 months ago. Somthing is not right!!!!!
    _______________________________________________
    Paranoia and a distaste for reality is a bad combination. What don't you see about the fact that Hagel and his confirmation has absopositivelyfreakin' nothing to do with Benghazi?
    This is pure, raw Repbublican obstructionism. Nothing more, nothing less. I'll believe Republicans actually care about Mr. Stevens, when they acknowledge that they care about the blood on their hands for the lies about Iraq. Until then, these cats are just another batch of anti-American terrorists we'll just have to deal with.

    February 14, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    freedom

    "It is difficult to explain to our allies why exactly that is happening. It also sends a signal to our men and women in uniform who are currently deployed around the world and who are currently serving in the frontlines of Afghanistan and are taking fire today," he told reporters. WHAT???!! Since when does this administration care about the men and women in uniform??
    ------------------------
    Since when? From day one, ever since the administration began. running things.

    Did you notice during the SOTU specch that Pres. Obama praised the work of our men and women in uniform do in places like Afghanistan? Did you notice that Democrats stood up and applauded, while Republicans stayed seated and frowned.

    February 14, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  13. critical thinking

    Not going to happen for Hagel, next !

    February 14, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. rla

    If H Reid was not turning the Senate into a vindictave body he would not be getting these kind of responses!

    February 14, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  15. Rick in OP

    I am a Republican and generally support Republicans. However, Hagel's performance at his confirmation hearing was abysmal. The men and women in uniform need better leadership than Hagel can provide. Ha should withdraw his name from consideration.

    February 14, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  16. On StreetWise

    The GOP/Tea can really OBSTRUCT.... But they sure can't GOVERN!

    February 14, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    Asked Wednesday in a press conference whether the GOP was moving goal posts on the issue, Graham gave a firm "no." "I'm gonna hit you, and keep hitting you," he vowed. "Absolutely."

    What a silly, silly man Lindsey Graham has become. Too much John McCain BFF hand holding, I suspect.

    February 14, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. Sam

    The Traitor Republicans blocking Hagel. They are the Taliban of the USA. McCain, Graham, and others are traitors of this nation. They will do anything to bring down this nation.

    February 14, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  19. Rob

    Hillary? What difference does it make?

    February 14, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  20. kmac

    Just what Hagle had to with Liyba is beyond me. I think its the signal that the Cons have not given up on the 08 election. They will continue the fight until they defeat him in 2016.

    February 14, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. Ferathka

    The Republican party just does not get it. It is sad that they will do anything and everything to try and make this President look bad. Sad...very sad.

    February 14, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  22. kmac

    Yes!!! I said 2016 the Cons don't know he can't run in 16

    February 14, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. PJ

    Lindsey Graham is using this as "payback" for John Bolton.
    McCain is going along with him but defends Hagel against the idiot Ted Cruz.
    Kelly Ayotte is trying to be relevant. She should find another way.
    All of them are petty.

    February 14, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    This sis beyond rediculous. Mcain and his cohorts should have to submit to a mental exam. This is no longer obstruction which is bad enough. This is personal vicious and sick. I believed he McCain did care about the country. I no longer do.

    February 14, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. Moose

    Thats improvement, Biden now knows how to use a phone

    February 14, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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