Chuck Hagel Confirmation Delayed By Partisan Feud
Chuck Hagel, a celebrated Vietnam War veteran who served as a Republican senator for Nebraska from 1997 to 2009, was recently appointed the U.S. Secretary of Defense. The Senate confirmed Hagel as the new Secretary of Defense after an almost two-month battle characterized by tough interrogation and Republican filibuster.
Although Senate Democrats supported Hagel’s nomination, only four Republicans voted in his favor, namely Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Rand Paul of Kentucky (Paul reportedly voted against moving forward with the vote earlier that day.)
What the United States witnessed in the weeks following President Obama’s Jan. 7 nomination of Hagel was a delay in addressing national as well as international problems as a result of governmental paralysis by a partisan feud.
Republican lawmakers used a filibuster on Feb. 14 to block a simple up-or-down vote on Hagel’s confirmation, arguing that more time was necessary to clear up ongoing concerns about Hagel’s associations and qualifications.
Senate Republicans have accused Hagel of being too soft on Iran and having an insufficient commitment to the American alliance with Israel. They also take opposition to Hagel’s support for cutting back on Pentagon spending and opposing President Bush’s 2007 decision to send 30,000 troops to uphold the combat effort in Iraq.
Republicans have also raised questions about Hagel’s finances, accusing him of failing to disclose information about the compensation he and the organizations he has worked with have received over the last decade.
During a Google Plus On-Air Hangout on Feb. 14, Obama criticized Republicans’ use of the filibuster to delay Hagel’s confirmation:
What seems to be happening — and this has been growing over time — is that the Republican minority in the Senate seems to think that the rule now is that you have to have 60 votes for everything. Well, that’s not the rule. The rule is that you’re supposed to have a majority of the hundred senators vote on most bills … My expectation and hope is that Chuck Hagel, who richly deserves to get a vote on the floor of the Senate, will be confirmed as our defense secretary.
The partisan feud surrounding Hagel’s nomination was out in the open during a confirmation hearing on Jan. 31, where Hagel was faced with an arduous and aggressive line of questioning from Republican senators. Some senators so staunchly opposed Hagel’s nomination that they sent a letter to President Obama on Feb. 21, urging him to withdraw Hagel’s nomination.
Opposition to the military surge in Iraq made Hagel and Obama allies. The two men gained mutual trust while traveling to Afghanistan and Iraq together in 2008. Since President Obama needs a defense secretary whom he can trust and who will give him unvarnished advice, Hagel’s nomination came as no surprise.
Apart from the President, 13 former secretaries of defense, as well as state and national security advisers of both parties, have endorsed Hagel. The fact that his confirmation as Secretary of Defense became entangled with a partisan feud sheds light on the unpleasant nature of politics, where instead of delineating problems and reaching a consensus, a nomination is needlessly delayed due to partisanship.
Reach Contributor Naina Sethi here.