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. jayh

    GOP- the party of idiots.

    February 15, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  2. Michael Q

    And over 47% of Americans keep voting, no matter what, whether right or wrong, for these old white spiteful men and women along with their newly acquired window dressing "Latino Puppeteer" to tell party members to stay in line or you will never ever get our bigoted support, NRA support, tea party support, no-tax big business support, or John McCain's blessing! To the American public, vote these clowns out in 2014 and 2016 until they get the message to do what is right for the country not their party. It is time to have a new Republican Party where policies are modern and well-thought before asking the American public to support them and their positions. Money can't buy you love!

    February 15, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  3. BUbba

    Same old tired song from the GOP, who cannot even support one of their own. Hagel left the GOP ranks because of the madness, and the GOP is just reminding us of why he left.
    This is not lost on me. I gave up my GOP credentials two years ago, and GOP continues to remind me that I was corect in my decision. If the GOP keeps this nonsense up, get ready for eight years of President Hillary. These bozos are making it too easy for the DNC.

    February 15, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  4. Gregory L. Faith

    It is going to be a very long four years. Stand by to stand by. The children cannot seem to be able to play in the sand box together.

    February 15, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  5. Deez

    At what point will Congress actually do something that doesn't involve the word "stall" ?!

    February 15, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  6. Grampa

    The Republicans in Congress are an embarrassment to America. They act like petulant children and then wonder why they are held in such contempt by all but their equally childish base.

    February 15, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  7. Larry L

    "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."

    Cruz is a low-life, right-wing extremist like all Texas Republicans – in bed with big oil. I wonder why Republicans didn't probe into Dick Cheney's sweetheart deals for Halliburton? After the Army IG had fined Halliburton for cheating the government the Bush Administration granted them a big bonus. Cheney and Rumsfeld had huge stocks in Halliburton held in "blind trusts" while they were in office. What happened? Cheney also communicated with Ken Lay over 60 times in the month before Enron went TU – like a couple of school girls. What was that about?

    February 15, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  8. Matt in KY

    Bet this multipronged game of politics has our enemies quivering. Discouraging.

    February 15, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  9. RealTeaMan

    Jindal was right. The GOP is the party of REALLY stupid. Fillibustering a former republican senator, war hero, that r
    they previously proposed for the exact same position....

    Now that Obama wants to apoint him. What utter hipocrytes. What they are shopwing the american people is just further evidence that these children will oppose what ever Obama is for, regardless of how obvious it is, or how much we americans are left hostage. Throw these idiots out in 2014!!!!!!!!!!

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

    Write your Congress Creatures today. Demand a vote until Hagel is confirmed, Demand the Senate stay in session!

    February 15, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  11. LL

    The GOP needs a mental competency test.

    Strike that......we already know they are now complete nutjobs.

    .

    Earth to GOP: Hagel is a REPUBLICAN...

    February 15, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  12. milan milenkovic

    Gallup poll on 08.14.12. show that only 10% Americans support Congress ??? The biggest problem to move this country FASTER forward in right direction is GRIDLOCK in Congress ( economy, unemployment, houses market depression are improving). American people sent them in Congress to do what is the best for the future of USA, and NOT to play political games ( like they did in Congress during last 4 years).. Other Countries will NOT wait for us, should we move forward or continue to play political games ( ex. BRICS ). President should use more Executive orders, Veto and deadline to be more effective!!! PS. Do NOT forget that situation on top of “pyramid” is different than on the bottom…

    February 15, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  13. Michael

    Here we go again. GOP – when will you LEARN YOU'RE NOT MAKING BETTER for your pathetic party of "NO!"

    February 15, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. rs

    Remember the Republican blathering that President Obama went on an "apology tour" after he got elected? He didn't of course. He was merely shoring up our foreign relations after the disaster that was the Bush years.

    Well, it looks like Mr. Obama will have to do exactly that now with our allies in the war in Afghanistan. He'll have to apologise for the Republicans who no longer take running our country, our wars, or our foreign obligations seriously.

    February 15, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. Mike

    The Senate filibuster process is plain wrong. Hagel got 58 out of 100 votes but was blocked in a procedure. In addition, a Senator from a low population state like Wyoming or North Dakota has the same power as one from New York or California on all votes. This is wrong. It does not reflect one person, one vote.

    February 15, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. hoosier1234

    "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."

    February 15, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. LL

    GOP - Guaranteed worthless return for your vote.

    Why would anybody with a brain vote for these jokers....they are only in it for their own gain & the gain of the highest bidder.

    February 15, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  18. hoosier1234

    "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."

    This is exactly the same thing we Republicans thought when you, Senator Reid, voted with your democrat cohorts to stop the nomination of Robert Bork. Get over it.

    Having said that, let Obama have whomever he wants - if it's destructive, there will be little for him to blame Republicans for.

    February 15, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  19. ChrisG

    GOP , 2014 is just around the corner. The majority of Americans are sick and tired of GOP obstructionism.
    Then end is near for the GOP

    February 15, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  20. LL

    The Republicans filibustering just to grandstand makes about as much sense as both McConnell and Boehner filibustering their own bills recently.

    Pathetic, GOP!!!!! Especially you John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz.

    February 15, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. name

    Neither side should be up-in-arms about this. This is politics as usual and both sides are guilty.

    February 15, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  22. GOP = Whigs

    John Boehner has zero leadership capabilities. Remember how he has completely messed up our Congress for years when his re-election comes up in just a few short months, folks.

    Vote the obstructionist GOPers OUT!

    February 15, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  23. Willy100

    Here is what I do NOT understand – – the Prez suggests lame UN person as Secr of State – there is Outcry – and the Prez "gets the hint" and withdraws her, and picks a good guy (Kerry) for the job – Speedy Approval – -Now he suggests lame Hagel guy and once again there is Outcry – – "get the hint" Mr Prez – withdraw this lame guy and pick someone else like Rahm Emanual – who knows all about Combat from Chicago – City of Guns – He'd be a Great Choice !

    February 15, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
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