February 14th, 2013
11:28 AM ET
2 years 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. Rogue351

    Standard operating procedure for the GOP / Tea Party. If Obama suggest it the GOP will block it. Regardless if it is right for American or not. The GOP only cares about one thing, making things as difficult as possible for the Democrats. And YOU leave the people in office to do NOTHING. Tax payers are paying them to do NOTHING. VOTE OUT THE GOP / TEA PARTY. Same old story year after year, do nothing, hate, war mongers, discrimination specialists. And you side with them because a Hater like Hannity, a drunk who found god – Beck and a pill popper like Limbaugh tell you to. All the while buying up as many guns as you can trying to make a buck on selling them, if they are banned. Absolutely disgusting behavior for Americans. And you think the founding fathers would be proud of your actions, Ha Ha Ha they are rolling over in their graves at just how low YOU have sunk. Cant have your way so your taking everyone else with you, spoiled children. Sickening !

    February 15, 2013 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  2. w5cdt

    Republicans...the party of losers...for a good reason.

    February 15, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  3. w5cdt

    GOP= Grover Owned Party...with two scoops of NRA on the side.

    February 15, 2013 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  4. epmeehan

    As a lifelong republican voter, I give up, I guess I just have to vote democrat for a year or two to let these yo-yo's realize the public is tired of them....

    February 15, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  5. Getoverit

    LMFAO! You liberals will eat whatever your, "leaders" will feed you. Sucks to be you!

    February 15, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  6. blake

    The GOP finally shows some backbone. About time. The four RINOs that sided with the Democrats need to be replaced with conservatives that will actually stand up for an ideology that presents the American people with an alternative to the far left lunacy promoted by the Democrats.

    February 15, 2013 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  7. Peter

    "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."

    Why does the American public accept this sort of conduct by Congress. What a waste of time, effort and resources. And the Republicans want the Administration to stop spending, and wasting money.... yet it seems when it comes to themselves, the rules are very different. No accountability. Shame!!

    February 15, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  8. Peter Wolfe

    What is wrong with the G.O.P with their obstruction? Do they seriously hate this country or what? Right now my grandpa is dying and all they want to do is cut Medicare? How do you think I feel now? OUTRAGED.

    February 15, 2013 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  9. jadefalcon

    Obom em got blocked and looses a cohort, How bout that.

    February 15, 2013 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  10. Gary D

    I have said it many times, nothing good for the USA has ever come from any republican, they are no good and all of them need to be outed from office.

    February 15, 2013 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  11. harry

    This proves it. Graham asked Hagel if he know how people are intimidated by Israel and its lobbying arm. This proves it that Graham is intimidated by them and will do nothing against it. It is so sad that our government is being run by Israel and anyone whoever and whenever the person had said anything, albeit the truth about Israel cannot be in US Government.

    Yes we are not a country by the people for the people and of the people. We are a country for the lobbyist.
    No politician has the guts to stand up for America.

    February 15, 2013 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  12. loudmusic

    The whole concept of the filibuster is completely antiquated. It's a parliamentary excuse for our elected officials to act like petulant babies and waste tax dollars at everybody's expense. Time for some common-sense proposal to junk this procedure once and for all. But don't hold your breath on that happening any time soon, kids. Common sense is in real short supply up there in the bubble.

    February 15, 2013 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  13. oh

    What a joke they are. They've completely lost their minds. Its pointless even trying to have a grown up talk with them now. A fellow Republican can't win a nomination to a cabinet position because he was nominated by Obama?

    For real GOP? You think 2012 was bad for you? I can't wait to see you worthless traitors tossed out of office in 2014.

    February 15, 2013 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  14. SC

    What does Libyan attack have anything to do with Hagel? It's almost like police throwing parents in jail for not being able to catch their criminal son. Come on! How many tax return Romney releases even when he was running for POTUS? How many years of taxes did McCain release when he ran for POTUS? This is nonsense.

    February 15, 2013 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  15. SC

    ".... 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."

    So, what McCain said was Hagel had nothing good to say about Small Bush and he was against his own party. So, let's use Libyan issue to boot him out. We only care about our party and Hagel's harsh words for Small Bush. Screw the betterment of the country. McCain, you are getting senile. I don't think you would remember what you said during your last presidential run. How about your catchphrase "the country first"? What did that catchphrase go, you senile?

    February 15, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  16. June

    This is all because the Senate democrats have a plan to avoid the sequester. The republicans are intentionally going to cause this sequester to go thorugh and cause a recession to try to get back to power. They have shown they are willing to destroy our economy by threatening to default in the debt ceiling negotiations twice – the fist time caused this sequester to be created as ransom for not defaulting. Now the Senate dems have a deal to avoid the sequester, that the House might actually vote for and so the Senate is going to stall and filibuster Hagel's nomination so that the dems plan won't come up for a vote – they want a recession and they are even now trying to blame the sequester on Obama – they want to spin this so they will not lose too many seats in the 2014 midterm elections

    February 15, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  17. lifelongrepublican

    I do not recognize this party. Today's GOP is a disgrace!

    February 15, 2013 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  18. SC

    "....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."

    Graham is stupid. I'm surprised he is still a senator. Well, obviously, he is from South Carolina. By the time, the POTUS used his weight and voice, nobody was in great need. These 4 Americans were dead, you dummy! "Dead" meant they were no longer moving and breathing and therefore, they no longer needed any help from the POTUS!

    February 15, 2013 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  19. MeanOldMan

    The current republican party is the greatest threat to our democracy this country has faced in my rather long lifetime. Half of them should be voted out of office and the other half tried for treason. They are also a disgrace and a major embarassment to this country in the eyes of the world at large. Whats even more scary is that people actually voted for them.

    February 15, 2013 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  20. II'm tired

    Hopefully hagel will never see the light of day in this position. He would be just another barry supporter apologzing for any military conflict from any country and how it would be the U.S.A's fault......Oh, wait the republicans fault

    February 15, 2013 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  21. Niclas

    Honestly while the GOP are destructive to the country with their blatant obstructionism i fully place the blame on the democrats the same way i do with the taxation and budget woes we face now.

    Lets not forgett they controlled both chambers for quite some time and could have made ALL the needed changed to stop this, limiting filabuster powers, raising taxes etc but instead the opted to press through one big act that they had trouble even rallying all their own members to and only worrying about the finacial situation when they at the same time should have been making or even prioritising the political structural changes needed (stoping redistricting, limiting filabuster etc)

    Its easy blaming republicans now as they are thrashing around like a school yard bully but when infact its the democrats fault for not siezing the moment they had and now they will face another 4 years of roadbump politics due to it.

    February 15, 2013 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  22. DougJ

    Just when you think the GOP has hit rock bottom, they sink even lower. They won't even confirm a conservative Republican because Obama nominated him. It's very sad to see McCain completely destroy his reputation.

    February 15, 2013 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  23. Epidi

    No surprises here. The GOP calls foul on everything except when they commit one.

    February 15, 2013 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  24. winchester74

    The Republicans in the Senate are just about the same as the Cruise ship Triumph. Both are running over with human waste and neither can move under their own power. The difference is that the Triumph can be repaired.

    February 15, 2013 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  25. Orwell seen it before

    no news here.

    Republicans being Republicans. Onward boys!

    February 15, 2013 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
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