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. Greenspam

    Source of Hagel's income – rich people. GOP will then immediately shut up and all vote for Hagel.

    February 14, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  2. Dave

    Mr. Graham enjoys walking around in his fatigues, armed, when visiting the inner compound of the green zone. It sounds Romanesque.

    February 14, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  3. Galaxy

    The GOP have become chronically obstructionist, that which weakens our political system and endangers our government ability to govern. The rule of majority is long forgotten which is a shame. I cant wait for the 2014 elections, when the GOP will lose more seats and will have little say, finally. Graham ,Mc Cain and the like need to be ousted and retired.

    February 14, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  4. John Lubeck

    Yet another new low for the Republicans.

    February 14, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  5. DlZ

    You can't negotiate or work with these people...period. They can't get along with anybody including their own. Time and time again they put themselves before what is best for the country. Enough is enough. I live in a red state....and these people live in a bubble of their own facts, which are absolutely untrue. It's time to deal with the source. Media outlets need to be fined for the lies they spread, and the facts they manipulate. The only way to stop this lunacy is to stop it at the source. Fox news was kicked out of Canada for this very reason...it's time to follow what the Canadians did and apply it in the US.

    February 14, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  6. D.Mama

    The GOP are out of thier minds and losing thier grip. When will they learn? what a way to get votes in the next election! I hope the Americn voters are paying attention!!!

    February 14, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  7. T.

    Republicans can not be reasoned with. Although the GOP is self destructing, democrats, and every reasonable independent must do everything in their power to hasten the GOP's demise.

    February 14, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  8. norma jean

    The action that the republican party insists on using when they can't or won't make a decision on an issue...is NOT a "Fiilibuster"......They call it that because they take anything that they have control over very lightly !!... A "filibuster, according to Websters is a long speech or obstructive tactic by "A" member of the assembly....it is not just one party voting against the question or person of the moment!!! The repubs have been using this evasive tactic not only in massive numbers but endlessly and incorrectly ......they should not be allowed to do so!!!....When are they going to grow up and act like legislators????

    February 14, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  9. belinda

    Americans everywhere are now questioning whether the GOP cares about the security of this country, in any way, whatsoever. This is proof, that it's all about bringing the country down, once again, to make our president look bad. Americans will see through this slea*y GOP effort.

    February 14, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  10. Corey Kepler

    The party of "NO". Typical... unfortunately. We need to get rid of the filibuster option or make them stand there talking until the collapse. The Republican party has become such a joke.

    February 14, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  11. DOG1

    If Cruz is so interested in where Hagel got his income perhaps we need to know much more about just where Cruz and Graham and all of them get their shady money. I imagine alot comes from arms manufacturers so a reasonable, non-war monger as SecDef scares the hell out of them. And just when is Graham coming out anyway?

    February 14, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  12. dscon

    Next we'll hear the left blame the gop for the sequester..........when in fact
    that was Obama's idea...;)

    February 14, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  13. Puleez

    Repubs dont give a fart about our military–they are only "arrow fodder"

    February 14, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  14. Jeff

    Jim has it right, all the blame can go to Harry Reid, this man needs voted out of office, he should have ended this when he had a chance. He is easily the worst senate majority leader ever, he stinks. He couldn't negotiate his way out of a paper bag. He should resign and let someone that has a clue do his job. He would make a great republican he's clueless.

    February 14, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  15. Andrew

    Am I the only one getting a little tired of McCain's bi-polar swings?

    February 14, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  16. ronvan

    FOLKS!! It is way past time for, WE, the people, to stop talking and take action! IF polls show anything it tells us that WE are NOT satisfied with the antics of our "elected children! Soooo, if true then VOTE them out!! It is the ONLY way that WE will ever make them change!

    February 14, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  17. Mike

    The clowns (GOP) are at it again.

    February 14, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  18. jonaty

    Not even the Democrats want him

    February 14, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  19. wyl5326

    So now, we can clearly say that Emperor Barack was expose as naked in the Benghazi Fiasco as he fiddled on board AirForce One enroute to VegasFund leaving our Ambassador in bodily harm ! That was why Susan was sent out to repeatedly claim it was the Video. While lots of people suspected Emperor Barack's culpability for ignoring the danger, he is the Director to what happen afterwards as he continued his campaign and belittled Mitt then ! House should LAUNCHED cover-up investigation and hpefully impeach the naked empty-headed Emperor Barack !

    February 14, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  20. Coflyboy

    Americans should demand: no pay for Republican congress until they decide to cooperate and do their job. Oh– and no vacation, healthcare, retirement and the other usual taxpayer paid benefits (those benefits the average American person DOESN'T have) either.

    February 14, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  21. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    Harry Reid and Carl Levin should know the game. I'm sure they remember when they blocked John Tower!

    February 14, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  22. opionion8it

    The GOP has been around the "BLOCK" a few times..... perhaps too many times..

    February 14, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  23. nobikiniatoll

    So much for the re-branding of the Republican Party.

    February 14, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  24. AlexanderE81

    No there's no such thing a "Jewish Lobby" (AIPAC)...I'm being sarcastic.

    February 14, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  25. Indyswimmer66

    This is exactly with the GOP is hated.

    February 14, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
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