February 14th, 2013
11:28 AM ET
10 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.

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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. K in Miami

    I can honestly say that todays Republican Party (Tea Party / w h ite america) seems intent on wreeking havoc on Governance in this country.....

    These PETTY GAMES of a political nature is causing more harm to our country than any Al Queada or Taliban is capable of, and whats more dispicable about this event, is it stinks of Opposition to POTUS, truly sickening....!

    February 14, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. us_1776

    The GOP would rather destroy the country than to do anything positive for the American middle-class.

    This filibuster is just spite for one of their "buddies", Hagel, who agreed to accept an appointment.

    Goodbye GOP. Cannot wait until 2014.


    February 14, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. sf

    should we be surprised? can't wait for November 2014! get rid of all these idiot republicans and tea partiers once and for all! VOTE THEM OUT IN NOVEMBER 2014!

    February 14, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. rightospeak

    I think it would be interestng to check McCain's finances. Anyone can easily guess where his money is coming from. He never served the American people . Col. Craig Roberts who was right that there were more people shooting at JFK ( he was a Marine sniper in VietNam) mentions in his book " The Medusa File " how McCain obstructed investigations into MIAs. Only a few weeks ago Kennedy's family stated on TV that I was watching to support what the Col. said long ago-there were other shooters. So we have been lied to all along and McCain is a big part of the BIG LIE.

    February 14, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  5. JPX

    It amazes me that the GOP are still acting like a bunch of babies – this is why you lost the election, GOP! You continue to impede prpgress because you can't handle that Obama is in the White House. This is why you're going to lose in 2016 – keep up the good work guys!

    February 14, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Wrong response Lynda, if only because you played into his sad and delusional argument. The correct response is as follows:

    "Nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, requires the POTUS to swear in on a Bible or any other holy book. Period. He could swear the oath with his hand on a Playboy or Everybody Poops and it would still be effective. Now, take your uninformed fundamentalist Teatroll idiocy back to kindergarten....they're wondering where the class dunce went."
    Oh God, I think I peed myself BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!! choke! gasp! Jeezus!!!

    February 14, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. rs

    jack wilson

    lets suppose that the bad guys were going to hit the embassy, and there were 3 guys who infiltrated the muslim brotherhood and had turned at least two guys in the lybian group that were ordered to attack the emdassy,it was hard enough paying the brotherhod guys to pass info, but to let on that the raid was not a big suprise would spill the beans on the 3 guys in the brotherhood`s inner circle,that option was a no go, the connection to the brotherhood is vital for the stability in the region including Isreal,perhaps the loss of life in bengasy is the penalty that we have to bare.
    And instead of "supposing", let's stick to facts- Hagel had NOTHING to do with Benghazi. This is pure anti-American obstructionism by the GOP.

    February 14, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  8. Keven

    Party of NO strikes again. Can we look into the finances of all the Republicans voting no?

    February 14, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Sniffit: Thank you my friend. Lord knows I needed that!

    February 14, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. bph

    These teapubs/republicants are willing to leave us in limbo rather than have a secretary of defense of Obama choosing, and that hater McCain can only see it as a way to get revenge on Hagel.............OBSTRUCTIONISTS!!!!!!!!!!

    February 14, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. ritmocojo

    This is why the GOP has no election victories in sight for the next 2 or 3 election cycles to come.

    February 14, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. Carl Guyer

    Republicans are again violating the rule of holes, "if you are in one stop digging"... This performance is only going to impress die hard conservatives and make it clear who is really the cause of gridlock.

    February 14, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. AgrippaMT

    The Republicans in the Senate are again out to prove that they are all utterly shameless. Obama should stop wasting time with them and make an recess appointment of Hagel to DOD.

    February 14, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. louis

    I can't believe anybody with a half of brain would ever vote for any Republican ever again, they have been taken over by the right wing tea party . This vote shows how they will eat their own and they have no intention whatsoever to try and help this country. I can't wait to vote and get out the vote in 2014 so they can be sent to their corner and try to figure out why they have no relivance whatsoever in running this country. Does anybody know when they will realize that the destory the country at any cost so Obama won't win strategy didn't work?????

    February 14, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  15. David

    In 2 weeks, we have to shut down the Govt, or go through with the sequester. Instead, the do-nothing party sits with their fingers up a particular hole trying to figure out how to get their thumb in. Nothing new here.

    February 14, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. gb0432

    This is absolutley the fault of that spineless weasel, Harry Reid....his backing down from changing the filibuster rule after saying for at least the last 18 months he was going to change the rules but instead agreed to a "handshake" deal with the Repubs when they returned to session in January. It just proves that these crooks in Congress have no incentive to change the system...once they are in the club, they benefit too much($) to truly make changes that would get meaningful work done by the Senate...

    February 14, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Lynda Minnesota
    Babe I keep telling you that you really can't reason with these people, and you can't illuminate them. They wish toremain willfully ignorant because that is the only way that they can hold on to their hate. Facts and easily verifiable information you say? Don't waste your precious time. The only kind of response that they deserve, if any, is the type of mental body-slam that leaves them quaking in their pj's wondering wtf? and calling for their mommies that our friend Sniffit is uniquely gifted and adept at delivering.
    The Koran.....you can't make these people up my friend.

    February 14, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  18. tony

    I always thought the winners in our elections were supposed to run the country, not the losers. Isn't that called democracy and specified in the US Constitution?
    Perhaps it's just that these church and home schooled bums can't count as well as not understanding sceience.

    February 14, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. Florida Joe


    "First, Obama is NOT President. He did not swear in on an American bible – he swore in on the Koran."

    Missed both Inaugurations, did you? Figures.
    Where do you get you "facts" Glen or Shawn or Rushbo......He used 2 bibles Lincoln and Martin Luther King's
    Try to keep up so that you do not look so foolish

    February 14, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    "There is nothing real to be had" oh the truth in that statement! Hagel, not a 'real' Sec. of Def. as defending America would not be his priority, facts on Benghazi-not going to happen until o is out of office and some daring journalist digs up the truth from whatever bunker it's in.

    February 14, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  21. Lou from NH

    It is shameful that we are back to politics as usual.

    February 14, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. Matt

    I suspect Harry Reid is having massive second thoughts with his decision not to reform the filibuster. Harry, like the President, relied on a "gentleman's agreement" with a member of the GOP. Look, the GOP is the party of voter suppression, hate and fear mongering as well as unbridled deceit in the service of special interests. Grand bargain, massive backstab by Boehner. Filibuster reform, backstab by McConnell. Harry, these are not people that want to negotiate, they are obstructionists, McConnell has stated this as his goal, look at his daily, hateful rhetoric. Not pursuing filibuster reform with a general agreement that the extremists would be betetr behaved is a massive backfire. There should be no surprise, these men do not exactly conceal their character. You fault, Harry. Fool me once, shame on you ... fool me twice ..... well you can't get fooled again and you did Harry.

    February 14, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. RBnoth

    Republicans are wasting our time and tax dollars once again by not doing their job. It's disgusting!

    February 14, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  24. freedom

    This Harry Reid performance of being appauled is really pitiful. The senators are doing their jobs – what we elected them to do. He needs to shut up and let the process continue. He and Pelosi need to go away.

    February 14, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  25. Mike

    Republicans have totally lost the ability to pick the good fights. They fight everything, and end up looking foolish.

    February 14, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
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