Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense has been sent to the full Senate, following a 14-to-11 committee vote that split along partisan lines. Tuesday’s vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee reflects how unpopular Hagel’s nomination has been among his former Republican Senate colleagues.
Two hours of debate prior to the vote were indicative of the partisan divide over his nomination. Republicans assailed his Senate voting record and his qualifications for the job; some Democrats expressed lukewarm support and defended his character.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday he hopes to move the Hagel nomination to the full Senate sometime this week. He said that he will not honor any holds placed on Hagel’s nomination.
“A hold means nothing,” he quipped to reporters. On Sunday, during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) , a vocal Hagel critic, said that he would put a hold on Hagel’s nomination.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), said that while a number of Republican members of the Armed Services Committee have concerns about Hagel, he did not know if this was the view of everyone in the Republican caucus.
McConnell said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if there is a cloture vote on Hagel when his nomination goes before the full Senate. A cloture vote requires 60 votes to end debate on the Senate floor.
Critiques of Hagel’s lackluster performance at his confirmation hearing last week were a common theme in remarks made by committee members.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) described it as “the worst that I have seen of any nominee for office.” According to McCain, “he refused to answer a simple, straightforward question as to whether the (Iraq) surge was a success or not, and whether he supported it or not. That was a key moment in the history of this country.”
Even Democratic senators weren’t too enthusiastic about Hagel’s appearance, Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.) said she wished that Hagel had been “feistier.”
Sen. Angus King, (I-Maine) agreed that Hagel “was not as forceful as he might have been” at the confirmation hearing. He said he thought Hagel’s confused response about the Obama administration’s policy in Iran was a slip-up. “The word popped out. He used the wrong word. It wasn’t a deliberate statement of a policy difference with the president. It was — it was literally a — I characterize it as a slip of the tongue.”
Hagel didn’t get much support from a fellow Nebraskan either. Freshman Republican Senator Deb Fischer, R.-Neb., said, “I do not believe he will chart the right course for our country, and the effect of his decisions on these topics will last for decades.”
Accordingly, she said, “I cannot support a candidate whose views are so far afield. As the Washington Post editorial board indicated, these positions are far to the left of those held by President Obama.”
Sen. Graham said the nominee’s “series” of Senate votes and statements in the Senate painted “an unusually disturbing picture.”
“There’s the left lane in politics, the right lane and the middle lane, and when it comes to some of the Iranian-Israeli issues, there’s the Chuck Hagel lane,” said Graham. “He’s in a league of his own, guys. There is nobody with this kind of series of votes and these series of statements. ”
He didn’t stop there. “It’s just not one thing. I mean, I say dumb things every day. But it’s a series of things, a series of votes, an edge about him that makes many of us very unnerved about his selection at a time when the world is on fire.”
Graham said he wasn’t reassured by Hagel’s testimony and said he would vote against confirmation because “there are very few people who have been this wrong about so many different things.”