The bipartisan comity of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has served the country well for several decades, is in danger as Democrats vow to push through Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel on party lines. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who earlier opposed a filibuster against Hagel, said on the weekend that he was leaning towards a “no” vote, while Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) said filibuster remained an option.
Separately, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he would “block” Hagel and CIA Director nominee John Brennan until the Obama administration provided full details of its conduct during the Benghazi attack in September.
Hagel, a former Republican Senator, stirred alarm with his radical views on Iran, nuclear disarmament, and Israel. He attempted to convince Senators that he had renounced many of his views, but his rambling, often self-contradictory responses raised further doubts, and even prompted some liberals to question his nomination. Hagel’s refusal to comply with requests for further documentation of “hundreds” of speeches he has given in the past five years, and for financial disclosures of potential foreign sources of income and capital, has provoked further alarm and opposition from Republican ranks even beyond the confines of the committee itself.
Typically, Democrats and the media are blaming Republicans for the impasse, but Hagel (by his own admission) is not qualified for the position, and his ideological views are far to the left of his former Republican colleagues. President Barack Obama’s decision to nominate Hagel was viewed both as a statement of radical intent in foreign policy and as a statement of contempt for the opposition. As is typical of the Obama presidency (and in contrast to the rhetoric of his first candidacy), that choice has dictated much of the partisan division that has followed.
Short of a filibuster–which now seems unlikely, and which has been rare in the history of Cabinet nominations–Republicans have few tools left to block Hagel’s confirmation, short of either wooing enough Democrats to cross the aisle, or walking out of the committee vote as a statement of protest. Committee chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) is said to fear the latter, because committee chairs in the past have prided themselves on their ability to reach accommodation with the opposition and avoid open confrontations.