On the confirmation of Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense, the real game was in the cloture vote (ending debate on the measure) in the Senate.
Despite a delay of three weeks to push the nominee to be more forthcoming about comments he made in the past against Israel and in support of Iran and about who funded some speeches he made previously, and to pressure the administration to reveal more about its drone program, 18 Republicans voted for cloture and ended the debate, enabling Hagel’s nomination to be secured.
On the actual nomination vote, four Republicans voted in favor of Hagel. Among those four votes, one Senator is retiring (Johanns, NE), two have been Senators forever and face no imminent threat of challenge in their states (Shelby, AR; Cochran, MS), and one is Rand Paul, the tea party-backed Senator from Kentucky considering a run for president in 2016.
So, when John McCain votes in favor of cloture (ending debate) but against the nomination of Hagel, and Rand Paul votes against cloture but in favor of the nomination of Hagel, what gives? Presidential politics, posturing, legacy, and arrogance are the only reasonable answers.
Let’s see what the Senators had to say for themselves:
John McCain (R, AZ)
“I do not believe that Chuck Hagel, who is a friend of mine, is qualified to be secretary of defense,”
Asked whether there is anything standing in the way of a Senate vote on the former senator’s nomination, McCain responded: “I think it will happen, barring some additional revelation concerning his comments about Israel and all those other really unfortunate things he said in the past.”
Rand Paul (R, KY)
Following the vote, Paul told reporters in the Capitol Building, “There are many things I disagree with Chuck Hagel on, there are many things I disagree with John Kerry on, there are very few things I agree with the president on, but the president gets to choose political appointees.”
In many ways, the reported disarray in the Republican Party is manufactured by the news media. As if the Democrat party was not on the ropes after the disastrous midterm elections of 2010, the media want to destroy the GOP after its drubbing in the 2012 elections. Yet, issues like the Hagel nomination demonstrate a total lack of conviction and principle on the part of some of our fearless leaders in the U.S. Congress.
The last time I checked, the U.S. Senate must provide “advice and consent” on the President’s nominations to major posts in the administration (as if this President wants their advice on anything), as noted in Article 2, Section 2:
…he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
Nowhere does the Constitution state that we should allow the President his prerogative on major nominees. It merely states that the president nominates and the Senate votes on it. The suggestion that a vote should be cast because it offers deference to the President reflects a squishy position, and one that nearly every Democrat would not take if the tables were reversed.
Therefore, in the Hagel matter, John McCain was wrong for voting to end the debate and Rand Paul, who clearly saw this as a throw-away vote to appear reasonable to moderate Republicans who will vote in the 2016 presidential primaries, was wrong for approving the nomination.
Andrew McCarthy at National Review Online summed up this classic GOP charade best in this post after Hagel was confirmed by the Senate:
Chuck Hagel has reportedly been confirmed by a vote of 58 to 41. But the real action was on cloture, where 18 Republicans voted to let a final vote on the nomination proceed. No matter how they parse it, these Republicans voted to make Hagel the secretary of defense. They will tell the folks back home that they just voted yes on the “procedural” matter but really opposed Hagel’s nomination. That will not be true. Since Democrats had the votes to confirm Hagel if the 60-vote barrier was surmounted, voting to surmount it assured that Hagel would be confirmed — and everyone knew it.If the roles were reversed, Democrats would never have let the nominee get confirmed.