The Senate has confirmed former Nebraska Senator, Chuck Hagel, as Secretary of Defense. The final vote was 58-41, with Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns (R) joining three other Republicans in approving the nomination. Otherwise the vote was along party lines.
The other Nebraska Senator, Deb Fischer (R), a member of the Armed Forces committee (that questioned Hagel during the confirmation process) voted against his nomination, along with 40 other Republican Senators.
The vote ended weeks of debate and discussion about Hagel's policies on Iran, Israel, and the Global Zero Report. There were grass roots objections connected to conservative and Jewish lobby groups. There were lingering doubts over two speeches that Hagel gave, on the subject of Jewish influence on US policy, whose texts were never provided. Hagel said the text of each speech had not been saved and there was no electronic record.
Hagel can now begin assuming authority for the department for the out-going Secretary, Leon Panetta, at a time when the hot topic in Washington is the "Sequestration" (cuts in discretionary spending across all government offices, which are scheduled to begin, automatically, on Friday) and the military is a prime target for large cuts.
There has been communication between the federal and state levels, trying to sort out what areas will be affected if the cuts happen. In Nebraska, for the coming year, it is projected that about $500,000 in cuts to various programs will hit. Ironically, though, the biggest question is about Offutt Air Force Base, which is not included in the half-million estimate. There have been on-going discussions about which operations may or may not continue, or if the base may be considered for closing, particularly if the sequestration cuts happen. It could be a judgement call, or a vital negotiation of the new Defense Secretary.
Well, that is certainly ironic, isn't it?