Through the morning of Feb. 13, Chuck Hagel looked to have all 55 Democrat Senators and Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in his corner. That tally just changed: Collins has announced that she will vote against Hagel’s confirmation.
Major Garrett of CBS News had reported yesterday that Collins would likely vote “yes” on Hagel:
I am reliably informed Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, will soon announce backing Chuck Hage. WH and Hagel backers believe they have 60 votes.
— Major Garrett(@MajorCBS) February 12, 2013
However, Collins went the other way, possibly switching her vote. In a statement announcing her posture on Hagel’s confirmation, Collins made it clear that she respects and appreciates Hagel’s military service, his service as a U.S. Senator, and his understanding that the coming sequester cuts are bad news for our military.
However, she indicated disagreement with Hagel on several issues, particularly Iran, where she held him responsible for blocking a sanctions bill in 2008 that had been favored by an overwhelming majority of Senators. She added that one of the nation’s biggest threats right now is the proliferation of terrorism, “the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and the reality of a nuclear-armed North Korea.”
Additionally, Collins pointed to the turmoil throughout the Middle East, the loss of four American lives in Benghazi, and the hundreds of rockets that have been fired into Gaza. Collins said Hagel’s statements and positions on these and related matters have been “unsettling” to her.
Therefore, Collins wrote, “I am unable to support Senator Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense because I do not believe his positions, votes, and statements match the challenges of our time.”
Shortly after Collins made her announcement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) had failed to reach an agreement on Inhofe’s request for a “hold” on Hagel’s confirmation. Therefore, Reid said, he would call for a cloture vote to end debate on Hagel and proceed immediately to a vote on Hagel’s confirmation, most likely on Friday. Cloture requires at least 60 votes to pass.
While opposing Hagel’s confirmation, Collins reiterated her opposition to a filibuster to defeat cloture. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had previously opposed a filibuster but may be showing some signs of openness to it, on the grounds that Hagel had not complied with the committee’s request for complete disclosure about recent speeches he had given.