On Monday, the Steering Committee of the Alabama Republican Party passed a resolution demanding that Sen. Richard Shelby retract his support of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) to be Secretary of Defense, according to a report in the American Spectator. The highly unusual step reflects growing concern among the Republican grassroots about Hagel’s positions on a variety of foreign policy issues, including Israel, the Spectator reports.
Shelby revealed last week that he intended to vote for Hagel. The announcement was treated by the media as a surprise, as it appeared to break Republican unity against Hagel. However, Shelby has supported a number of Hagel’s controversial stances over the years. In 2007, for example, he joined Hagel in refusing to sign a letter to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking her to encourage “friendly” Arab states to recognize Israel.
In announcing his decision last week, Shelby explained that he believed that whoever the Obama administration might nominate in Hagel’s stead would be worse: “He was a pretty good Senator…I don’t like a lot of things he’s said, but you’ve got to think who would come after him.” The party’s base feels otherwise. As the American Spectator’s Quin Hillyer reported Monday: “It has been an outpouring from people across the state,” State Republican Chairman Bill Armistead told me. “There have been phone calls from a lot of people, plus we’ve all been approached by people we know at churches and in our communities. I haven’t seen anything this strong in opposition to something done by one of our representatives in Congress in a long time.”
Hagel’s confirmation is expected to receive a cloture vote Tuesday, followed by a formal vote of the Senate, which he is expected to win, largely along party lines. Opposition to Hagel is likely to be historic; no Secretary of Defense in recent history has been confirmed with more than three votes in opposition.