The Senate confirmed Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense Tuesday. The confirmation vote came after an 18 Republican Senators joined Democrats to end the filibuster that blocked Hagel’s confirmation twelve days ago. The confirmation vote was 58-41. Unfortunately most Republicans still voted to block an up or down vote on Hagel today.
In the Senate Republicans force every motion to have 60 votes rather than a simple majority to allow it to come to a vote. Republicans launched a filibuster to block the confirmation of Hagel. That was the first time in history the filibuster was used to block nomination of a Defense Secretary.
All Democrats except Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) voted for Hagel as did the two Independents—Senator King (I-ME) and Senator Sanders (I-VT).
Only four Republicans Senators voted to confirm Hagel-- Sens. Thad Cochran (MS), Richard Shelby (AL), Mike Johanns (NE) and Rand Paul (KY). The surprise vote was Rand Paul. He voiced “concerns” about Hagel because he heard he received funds from the “Friends of Hamas.” As it turns out, that organization never existed. It was a joke turned into fact by GOP bloggers and legitimized by Fox News.
Republicans look foolish over filibuster
The question many are asking is what did Republicans accomplish by the filibuster and all the drama surrounding it? The short answer is nothing. The episode showed how petty, partisan and polarizing today’s Republican Party has become. Hagel emerged as today as Secretary of Defense and Republicans emerged looking like the Stupid Party once again.
Republicans look foolish because there were no substantive reasons for Hagel’s nomination to be held up for twelve days. Republicans just wanted to teach Hagel a lesson for questioning the Iraq War, and for not supporting John McCain in 2008. It was pay-back for Hagel not blindly falling in line with the party.
To mask their efforts to humiliate and belittle Senator Hagel, Republicans invented one red herring after another. They made demands to know minute-by-minute what President Obama was doing on the night of September 11, 2012. They sent lists of questions on the Benghazi attack to the White House and refused to act on Hagel until they got answers.
Had the Senators who demanded answers on Benghazi just showed up at the Intelligence briefing in the Senate, they would have learned the answers to their questions. Hagel had nothing to do with Benghazi. It was a red herring.
Then there were the conspiracy theories about the “Friends of Hamas.” Senators repeated them as fact without doing any fact-checking. As a result they were the butt of late night jokes.
Senate Armed Services ranking member Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) tried to stop Hagel again Tuesday using the same debunked theories he and Senator Cruz (RT-TX) came up with at the Armed Services Committee. Cruz said Hagel might have received money from groups funded by Saudi Arabia or North Korea.
After all the soap opera drama, Hagel was confirmed. Republicans will try these same tactics on the next Obama nominee. This shows how bad Harry Reid screwed up when he would not allow Democrats to end the filibuster earlier this month.