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. Wilson

    While Obama failed to focus on the fact that he's increased the national debt by 60 percent during his first term, he did assert, "Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime."

    First, notice the weasel word "should." Second, if that dime store rhetoric sounds familiar, it's because this is an oft-repeated whopper. Here are just a few examples from 2009: "I will not sign a bill that adds a dime to our deficits - either now or in the future." "Health care reform will not add one dime to our deficit." "I will not sign health insurance reform ... if that reform adds even one dime to our deficit over the next decade - and I mean what I say." And from 2010: "That's also why we're restoring pay-as-you-go: a simple rule that says Congress can't spend a dime without cutting a dime elsewhere." "This [jobs] legislation is fully paid for and will not add one single dime to our deficit." "We will not add one dime to our deficit." And from 2011: "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficit." "I want to lower the corporate rate and eliminate these loopholes to pay for it, so that it doesn't add a dime to our deficit." Ad infinitum.

    February 14, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. Name lynn

    The white house leaders need to check their closet, because its something in the past is there. If someone starting looking in the white house leaders past what will they find. people would like to know.

    February 14, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. Wilson

    Fact is, since he took office in 2009, Obama has added almost 60 TRILLION dimes to the deficit. He claims his initiatives are "for the sake of our children and our future," and yet he's saddled them with $6,000,000,000,000 in debt. And he wants to add another $5,000,000,000,000?

    February 14, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. Wilson

    ObamaCare: "Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs." Uh, no. ObamaCare cost estimates are soaring with a healthy single 20-something to pay almost $2,000 instead of $600. A family of four will pay a minimum of $20,000 for the most basic health care plan. Maybe Obama-Doesn't-Care better describes this behemoth legislative atrocity.

    February 14, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  5. Tuza Baap

    Republicans do not care about US interests. Their main agenda is to oppose Obama no matter how good his policies he brings or how well qualified cabinet secretaries he nominates. Their joker leader Mitch McCano openly declared that their main agenda was not to allow Obama a 2nd term which was failed miserably. And now they want to take a revenge on their defeat. These fools should be driven out in their next terms.

    February 14, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  6. Wilson

    Jobs: "A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs, that must be the North Star that guides our efforts." Obama failed to mention that more than eight million Americans have dropped out of the workforce since he took office.

    February 14, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. Wilson

    Energy Independence: "That's why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits." You can't "keep" doing something you have yet to do.

    February 14, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  8. Wilson

    I semi-agree with Obama on this one, but it depends on how he goes about it. Climate Change: "Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods - all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science - and act before it's too late."

    February 14, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  9. sara

    Dispicable....Now the GOP IS CLEARLY the Enemy of the State.! Unprecedented!!! Hagel and Powell will be their "Enemies"....for being guys with honesty and GUTS! So figure America....who is REALLY for AMERICA!

    February 14, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  10. rs

    Donna

    Why doesn't Obama just come clean about what happened in Benghazi? Literally every single fact and piece of information has had to be pulled from their sweaty grasp. Nearly 5 MONTHS after the event, Obama has not disclosed where he was, what he was doing, what HE did to help save the lives of those Americans, including our ambassador. This whole stinking mess wreaks of a massive coverup to protect Obama's re-election campaign, and now his presidency.
    ___________________
    Donna-

    There was nothing to cover up. Remember how stupid Romney looked for parroting the FOX lies during the debate? Consulates are NOT embassies, and protection for both reside with the host nation. Remember as well the GOP helped cut the security budget for State. Yes, 4 brave Americans died in a coutry where they knew that was possible. Republicans have to stop this senseless (and fake) weeping. If 4 death abroad do this to you people, I can't imaging how you handle the blood of Iraq on your hands.

    February 14, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. emskadittle

    Its fun to see the republicans go after one of their own, it just proves that if Obama had the cure for cancer the republicans in congress would be against it

    February 14, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  12. rs

    Moose

    Thats improvement, Biden now knows how to use a phone
    _________
    He also knows how to make Paul Ryan look like the chump that he was in a debate.

    February 14, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  13. Tiz

    Obama is not leading this country... he's in a constant state of campaign..... and is the master of kicking the can down the road with small deals...... he does not lead.... never has...

    February 14, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Wilson wrote:

    While Obama failed to focus on the fact that he's increased the national debt by 60 percent during his first term, he did assert, "Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime."

    First, notice the weasel word "should." Second, if that dime store rhetoric sounds familiar, it's because this is an oft-repeated whopper. Here are just a few examples from 2009: "I will not sign a bill that adds a dime to our deficits – either now or in the future." "Health care reform will not add one dime to our deficit."
    ----------------
    Do you understand the difference between "debt" and "deficit"? When he promised not to a dime to the deficit, that means he promises not add a dime new annual spending. It doesn't mean he's promising to have no budget deficit, nor deny that one even exists.

    February 14, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  15. rs

    Wilson

    I semi-agree with Obama on this one, but it depends on how he goes about it. Climate Change: "Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it's too late."
    __________________
    Or we can believe you'll say anything at all just so you can deny reality.

    February 14, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  16. PatheticCNN

    CNN has become an Onion.

    February 14, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  17. Dave

    If Hagel would just fully answer straight forward questions, it may resolve most of the issues. Of course it may also confirm he is not acceptable, so...

    February 14, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  18. callmecrazy

    This is the GOP trying to score political points and nothing more. It isn't about the nomination at all and they only continue to support my low opinion of them.

    February 14, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  19. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    Hagel is definitely not qualified for this job. He is clearly unprepared.

    February 14, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  20. simplyput

    One more time: one quarter of the 50% who voted, voted for O. His lavish spending, destruction of medicare and world labor union aspirations have a 25% mandate. You people who talk as if the GOP is dying are the joke.

    February 14, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Wilson

    Jobs: "A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs, that must be the North Star that guides our efforts." Obama failed to mention that more than eight million Americans have dropped out of the workforce since he took office.
    --------------------------–
    Maybe that many people have dropped out, but I doubt it. If they did, maybe most of them were Romney self-deportees.

    Pres. Obama did not create the Great Recession. He had nothing to do with the 50,000 manufacturing sites that closed in the US between 2001 and 2009. Obama had nothing to do with the housing bubble that first became a problem in 2006 and finally imploded in 2008 with the Wall Street collapse.

    February 14, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  22. PatheticCNN

    President Obama was not even in White House that night. He was Entertaining His Donors at Camp David and that why Hillary was so called in-charge.

    February 14, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  23. PatheticCNN

    If this is what happened, why did it take over five months for them to say this?

    February 14, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  24. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Wilson said...well actually I read only one line and went on to another comment.

    February 14, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  25. JohnW

    @Sly
    Democrats are so uninformed about the facts.

    First, Obama is NOT President. He did not swear in on an American bible – he swore in on the Koran.
    Second, I have never seen his Birth Certificate. He is not President unless he proves to me he was born in America.
    Worse of all, there are growing rumors that Obama was NOT in Bengazi at the time. Come on, we need a President who is there defending our American citizens. Bush went to the Aircraft carrier.

    The White House is covering up that Obama was in America, not Libya, that day.

    Democrats just don't understand these simple facts, and Obama is not our President.

    -----------------------------------
    I really really hope that's a troll. Because that's some funny stuff. If that isn't a troll, I weep for our future.

    February 14, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
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