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. J.D. wilcox

    The GOP have become obstructionists for the sake of obstruction. They will take the next ten days to try to dig up more dirt with the hope of grinding Hagel into the ground. Republicans have become nothing more than a mean bunch of old white guys, with no intention of trying to better themselves. The GOP is dieing a steady and difficult death.

    February 15, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  2. The Real Tom Paine

    -WiredweirdinSF

    It is called "borking" and named after what the democrat liberals did to a truly fine and qualified man for political purposes. Again, democrat liberals invented it and now dirty Harry and the corrupt lying president are showing their true hypocrisy by blasting Republicans for doing it also.
    ***********
    Defense Secretary is a position Hagel will hold for no more than 4 years: A Supreme Court Justice is a lifetime appointment. Bork was not in the mainstream of judical thought, and he sided every time against individual rights and in favor of government and/or industry: read his decisions if you don't believe me. Also, I recall John Tower's nomination for Decretary of Defense being held up by his own party,once again for persoanl vendettas, so learn to compare apples to apples. The GOP is punishing Hagel for showing insufficient purity to their " ideals" whatever they may be on any given day, plain and simple.

    February 15, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Is Mccain still smitten by Hagel's support for Obama? Payback time, huh?"

    Hey, didn't you get the FOX News memo? No problem ... the talking parrots are more then happy to have spent all night explaining that Old McCain isn't being spiteful ... he simply wants his questions answered over and over. And over and over. And over and over. Again. And again. And again.

    February 15, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  4. Wilson

    Everything the republican party does is the same things the democratic party does when positions are reversed. There is not much difference in either party. Republicans are just "democrat lite." We the people, are just gullible and uninformed. No wonder the "elitists" think they know better than us, what is best for us. As far as Ried not changing the filibuster rules,,,well, he will not want to lose the ability for the time when republicans have the majority.
    $

    February 15, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  5. kurtinco

    What an outrage!!! I say Senator Reid should call the vote two times a day every day until the filibuster is broken. No recess, no breaks. Let's force these people to identify who is responsible for putting a hold on this nomination and our defense. Voting "present" is not acceptable. Missing the vote is not acceptable. You republicans are foaming at the mouth to hang something about Benghazi on our president. Now you want to know if he made a phone call? DROP IT ALREADY!!!!!!!! Everyone else in America that isn't a FoxNews lacky dropped it months ago. Enough is enough!

    February 15, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  6. thedoctor

    "Mitch McConnell once said (in 2008) that they would do everything to make Obama a one-term President."

    It's ironic that Obama is a two-term president BECAUSE the Republicans did everything they could to make him a one-term President. Rubio said Obama was the worst president ever. Really? Then how did he get re-elected? The Republican party has become the "Hyperbole Part."

    February 15, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  7. Freesater

    Hagel was correct...Bush was the worst President since Hoover. He spent all our resources on two useless War. Remember when he came into office he love saying "I have capital and I am going to spend it."

    The reason this country is so screwed up is because of his stupidity.

    February 15, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  8. rs

    Francisco Islas

    That's the ticket! This is like a football game; the more we tie up the legislative process, the less likelyhood that Obama's anti- american agenda will get enacted. We can literally run out the clock! God bless our Nation and God save the Bill of Rights from the power hungry king Obama.
    ________________________________________________
    Uhhh, hello? Did you forget about that little war in Afghanistan? Yes, we have troops on the ground in a foreign country, fighting this very day. We have obligations to allies, actions to coordinate. Has it not occured to you that the GOP has signaled to our allies"hey, we don't care anymore about Afghanistan or Al Queda, we're done"?
    This puts our brave men and women AT RISK, and worse, it makes our nation look utterly incompetant. But that's cool for you guys. Lose elections, and instead of trying to be leaders, you act like "dead-end kids".
    The GOP is D-E-A-D. get over it.

    February 15, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  9. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Lets face it, Bo has more intelligence than the average conservative voter and politician. This country is going to the dogs with these unpatriotic un-Americans in office.

    February 15, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  10. Jeb

    It's clear that the GOP is still only interested in obstructing and sabotaging the President.

    Republicans ran for office saying, "government doesn't work".

    Then they got elected and proved it by creating total gridlock.

    February 15, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  11. rs

    Jeb

    It's clear that the GOP is still only interested in obstructing and sabotaging the President.

    Republicans ran for office saying, "government doesn't work".

    Then they got elected and proved it by creating total gridlock.
    _________________
    Exactly!

    February 15, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  12. mobilekoala061

    I think the GOP's behavior with the Hagel nominations is the same as everything else that has come to the floor. It is clearly opposition to President Obama. When are they going to get to work and stop wasting the tax payers money with childish antics.

    February 15, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  13. joet

    Our legislative bodies were once the model for the world. They're now the embarrassment of the world. Next thing they'll start doing is throwing shoes!

    February 15, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  14. Techno Viking

    Unfortunately this is what the republican party has become, one of obstructionists. I wish they would put aside their hatred and work with the democrats for the good of the country. I've been of voting age since 1987 and for the first time I have a hard time considering voting for anyone republican. I always look at the individual candidates to get a good idea of what they stand for, but in national elections I can't find many worth a darn. I've had it with their attitudes and out of touch agenda

    February 15, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    So, here we are. A few weeks into the Obama second term and GOPers are still trying to make him a one term President.

    Same messaging. Same hate. Same petty in-house GOP quarreling.

    And McCain dares to question why HE was never elected President?

    Too, too funny.

    February 15, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  16. The Real Tom Paine

    -Wilson

    Everything the republican party does is the same things the democratic party does when positions are reversed. There is not much difference in either party. Republicans are just "democrat lite." We the people, are just gullible and uninformed. No wonder the "elitists" think they know better than us, what is best for us. As far as Ried not changing the filibuster rules,,,well, he will not want to lose the ability for the time when republicans have the majority.
    $
    ************
    From a functional standpoint, you are correct. From a philosphical standpoint, the 2 parties have grown further and further apart over the last 40 years, as moderates have been tossed from the parties, especially the GOP. People are not gullible and uniformed, they are overwhelmed with viewpoints and information in addition to having all the normal concerns people have. People choose the viewpoints with the loudest voices, not the ones with the best information because its easier to do that. Who really has a lot of time to read the Federalist Papers, or a real biography of any of the Founding Fathers? Not a lot of people. However, if you don't make the time, you abdicate your responsibility to the elites in TV and the 24-hour news cycle that decide what you need to know and how to think. I remember Rush Limbaugh saying, " Go out and enjoy your weekend: I'll tell you what you need to know on Monday." Don't quit on yourself and choose the path of least resistance.

    February 15, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  17. Chris

    Republicans (Obstructionists), Democrats (Not Very Smart, A little Lazy), T-Party/T-Baggers (Whatever!). Yes Folks, These are the So Called People Making Decisions for Us! Our Senate and Congress in a Nut Shell! Something Smells Here!

    February 15, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  18. Anonymous

    Its all politics, because a democratic president nominated him, the republicans will fight the nomination, even though Hagel is a republican, if it was a republican nomination, the dems would do the same thing...hey put a tax cu dealt for the wealthy as part of the nomination and the republicans who nominate him in a minute

    February 15, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  19. rs

    "Ried not changing the filibuster rules,,,well, he will not want to lose the ability for the time when republicans have the majority."

    Actually Reid gave the Republicans one last chance to hang themselves on their obsructionist stupidity- and they did EXACTLY that within a week. I think the GOP has opened a hornet's nest, and they will pay for their selfish acts.

    February 15, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  20. Lamanzo

    "We're going to hold it up this week, but the week after next we'll let the vote go". How dumb. So they're saying ultimately it'll happen but they just want to make him wait. Regardless of views, if the guy is going to end up being confirmed let him get to work ASAP. Cabinet picks should never be fillibuster material. Should be up and down votes period.

    February 15, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  21. jnpa

    McCain was always in favor of Hagel, but now that Obama nominated him for Sec of Def suddenly McCain is against him. What does that tell you? GOP – Grand Obstructionist Party! I really thought they would have learned their lesson during the election, but obviously they just don't get it.

    February 15, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  22. Sam

    This is a further attempt to prove that government doesn't work by preventing the government from working.

    The Senate Democrats, for their part, are perpetual losers. They've been winning since 2006, and they're still so spooked by the old Republican realignment under Reagan that they'll hold back on anything, even when they have the votes and public support. Healthcare was the ONLY thing they felt brave about. The rest of the time they're cowards, and in no way is this better exemplified than in Harry Reid's complete about face on filibuster reform. He tried appeasement after months of grandstanding about the nuclear Senate rule changes, and look what it got him!

    February 15, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  23. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    These guys are bordering on TREASON!!!
    -------------------------------------------------
    Not only have they crossed over that border they have apparently relinquished American citizenship in order to take up permanent residence there.

    February 15, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. zisee

    Good, he has done enough damage to our country.

    February 15, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  25. ronvan

    ANSWER! VOTE all of our "elected children" out of office! Dems, Repukes, Indep., ALL of them! HOW, worse off could we be? By doing this, WE, THE PEOPLE, would send a very strong message to the NEW elected officials that WE are fed up with getting nothing done! THEN, you pass a law making it illegal, a felony, for ANY lobbyist, special interest group, etc., to talk "offer bribes", to ANY elected official! AND, cut out ALL these "breaks, vacations" and MAKE them do some work!

    February 15, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
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