Republicans preparing the first filibuster of a DefSec nominee in American history.
We are even further into uncharted political waters.
Republicans are filibustering a nomination, something that's never, ever been done.
A former red state Republican war hero.
Because.... wait for it.........
He believes light exists between Israeli policy and American policy.
Hagel nomination hits a wall
By Domenico Montanaro, Deputy Political Editor, NBC News
4 hours ago
Chuck Hagel’s nomination just hit a major obstacle.
Hagel will not have the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster at tomorrow’s scheduled cloture vote, Republican leadership told Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday, according to a Senate Democratic aide.
"My Republican colleagues had led us to believe they would not filibuster Senator Chuck Hagel's confirmation as Secretary of Defense,” Reid (D-NV) said in a statement released by his office. “But that has changed. Now, Senate Republicans have made it clear they intend to mount a full-scale filibuster, and block the Senate from holding a final passage vote on Senator Hagel's nomination. Make no mistake: Republicans are trying to defeat Senator Hagel's nomination by filibustering while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied."
All 55 Democrats are supporting Hagel.
But just two Republicans have said they would vote for their former colleague, a Republican from Nebraska – Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Mike Johanns (R-NE). Hagel would need three more for his nomination to be able to proceed to an up-or-down vote, which Reid said would happen Saturday.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Susan Collins (R-ME) previously said they would not support a filibuster of Hagel, which would have given Hagel enough votes.
“I just do not believe a filibuster is appropriate, and I would oppose such a move," McCain said, adding, "I will try to make that argument to my colleagues.”
But McCain and Blunt have changed their tunes.
Republicans, like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member on the Armed Services Committee that considered Hagel’s nomination, are arguing that what they are doing is not a “filibuster.” They just want more information, they say, on his finances and speeches -- despite the answers Hagel submitted to the standard Senate questionnaire, as well as his contentious hearing.
That's something that caused Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) to accuse Republicans of an "unprecedented" double standard.
McCain, for one, wants more information from the White House on the attacks in Benghazi.
On MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown last week, Blunt was asked if he would support a filibuster of Hagel’s nomination.
“I doubt it; I doubt it,” he said. “I think for somebody who’s going to be there the length of time the president serves, as opposed to a Supreme Court judge, that a majority in the Senate should be able to confirm. I wouldn’t intend to be a part of that majority, but certainly my strong inclination would be that this is a vote that should be done by a majority, rather than a 60-vote standard. And this person is going to leave the day the president leaves. That makes a difference.”
Yet, Blunt’s office contends Blunt’s current position is not a switch.
“He hasn’t changed his original position at all,” said Amber Marchand, Blunt’s spokeswoman. “He’s just pointing out that Senator Hagel and the Obama Admin have not produced all of the information that’s been requested, and there has not been time for a full debate in the Senate, therefore the Senate should not move forward on a vote this week.”
Reid argued Thursday morning on the Senate floor that Republicans were playing politics with national security.
“For the sake of our national security, it’s time to put aside this political theater,” Reid said, accusing them of being more concerned about primaries and the Tea Party.
He said opponents were seeking delay after delay, saying there's been "one stall after another."
Hagel would be just the third cabinet secretary to require the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. The other two were Dirk Kempthorne, George W. Bush’s nominee for Interior Secretary in 2006, and C. Williams Verity, Ronald Reagan’s pick to be Commerce Secretary in 1987, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Both, however, were easily confirmed and cleared the cloture hurdle, 85-8.
There has never been a cabinet secretary nominee who was successfully filibustered.
There have, however, been other high-level, non-judicial nominees, who have also required 60 votes.
2010- Ben Bernanke (Fed Chair, cloture invoked, passed 77-23)
2009- Hilda Solis (Labor, cloture invoked, but withdrawn)
2006- Dirk Kempthorne (Interior, cloture invoked, passed 85-8)
2005- Rob Portman (USTR, cloture invoked, but vitiated)
2005- John Bolton (US Amb to UN, cloture invoked, nomination rejected 54-38)
2005- Steven L. Johnson (EPA administrator, cloture invoked, passed 61-37)
2003- Michael Leavitt (EPA admin, cloture invoked but withdrawn)
1987- C. Willliam Verity (Commerce, cloture invoked, passed 85-8)
Chuck Hagel's confirmation and the orthodoxy of US debate on Israel
Opposition to the defense secretary nominee shows how risky it can be to question unconditional support for Israel
Thursday 14 February 2013 13.42 EST
This week, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel achieved a rather dubious accomplishment: he became the first nominee for Secretary of Defense to be filibustered by the United States Senate.
In an era when seemingly every procedural norm of American governance has come under assault by congressional Republicans, the blocking of Hagel is yet another upping of the obstructionist political ante. But even more depressing are the reasons Hagel is being blocked.
While GOP Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are using Benghazi as an excuse to hold up Hagel, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who has led the filibuster charge, has concerns that have little to do with Hagel's fitness for job, his managerial skills or even his views on military affairs. As the National Review reports, "Inhofe's main concern remains Hagel's position on Israel." In Inhofe's own words:
According to an analysis put together by Max Fisher at the Washington Post, Israel was mentioned 178 times at Hagel's nomination hearing. Iran was next, at 169. Since Teheran's nuclear program is of heightened importance to the US because of how it affects Israel's security, it makes the focus of the hearing even more Israel-centric.
What is perhaps most remarkable about these numbers was that these same duly-elected US senators couldn't be roused to demonstrate the same concern about Hagel's views on Afghanistan (a place where American soldiers are currently fighting a war); or Pakistan, a country that still houses remnants of al-Qaida and has been fighting a proxy war with the US over the past several years; or North Korea, a country on the border of which more than 30,000 US troops are deployed.
Even when it came to actual US troops, the committee found it hard to demonstrate much interest. Sexual assaults in the military were mentioned three times – a number that encapsulates a grim irony, since one in three military women have been sexually assaulted. Mental health and suicide were mentioned 25 times, even though a record 349 active duty service members took their own lives last year.
At a time when there are serious challenges facing the military – budgetary constraints, changing strategic mandates, draw-down in Afghanistan and an evolving pivot to the Far East – the extraordinary attention paid to a country that is far down on the list of Pentagon priorities makes little sense. Instead, it speaks to Israel's disproportionate and destabilizing influence in US foreign policy debates.
There are plenty of good strategic and historical reasons for the US to maintain a close relationship with Israel, and obviously, there are close cultural and religious ties between the two countries that do and should inform American policy. But that can hardly explain the outsized attention paid to a country that doesn't have a mutual defense treaty with the US, is only America's 24th largest trading partner, and has no American troops deployed on its territory.
It is even odder that unquestioned support for Israel is basically unchallenged in US political debates. Indeed, in 2011, when President Obama stated that a final peace deal between Israel and Palestinians should be based on the 1967 borders, he was met by a furious pushback – even though this has been longstanding US policy.
The mere suggestion that Israel would have to make concessions for peace led to practically universal calls from Republicans that Obama had "thrown Israel under the bus". Only the hint of divergence from the preferences and desires of Israel's leaders was enough to spark a firestorm. There is no other US bilateral relationship where such a dynamic exists.
Indeed, the starting point for any discussion of US support for Israel begins not as an either/or discussion, but rather, as how much – as in, how much has one vocally demonstrated their support for Israel. One might assume that with all the attention that the Senate pays to Israeli security interests (and the closeness of the bilateral relationship), its contribution to US national security – and alignment with US foreign policy interests – would be ironclad. However, one would be wrong.
For example, a key tenet of US policy toward Israel is opposition to settlement construction in the West Bank, a position that has been endorsed by every US president since Ronald Reagan. And yet, Israeli settlement construction continues. In fact, late last year the Netanyahu government announced it would begin planning for new settlements in both East Jerusalem and the controversial E-1 section of the West Bank. This runs counter to both the spirit and the letter of US policy.
Insofar as the US government sees construction of settlements as an impediment to peace (which it does), their continued expansion also undermines another key US policy in the region: support for a two-state solution. While Palestinian leadership bears as much blame as Israeli politicians for the lack of progress in achieving that end-result, one would be hard-pressed to argue that Israeli policy, particularly in regard to the settlements, is furthering the hopes of peace.
Finally, whatever one thinks of US support for Israel in the abstract, it is increasingly difficult to argue that it is a net positive when it comes to US interests in the region. Indeed, we know that for US diplomats and US military officials (pdf) who deal with Arab and Muslim leaders in the Middle East, America's unquestioned support for Israel makes their work harder, not easier, a challenge that will only grow as the Arab Spring and Arab democracy continues to evolve.
Part of what is going on here is obviously politics. As Harvard Professor Stephen Walt has repeatedly argued, this is demonstrative of the extraordinary power that the Israel lobby holds over Congress and official Washington. But in the case of Hagel, the strongest pro-Israel lobby, Aipac, has been silent on the nomination. Rather, it was more radical, rightwing groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel that took the lead in opposing him.
For senators like Texas Republican Ted Cruz, who has done his best Joe McCarthy imitation in trying to impugn Hagel's reputation, his stridency on this issue has far less to do with the Israel lobby than it does with the fact that Israel holds an unusually esteemed place in the hearts of evangelical Christians, a key element of the Republican base. But the "why" is less important than the overall chilling effect that it has created.
What has put Hagel in such hot water are the suggestions that the desperate plight of the Palestinians should be an issue of concern to the United States; that US diplomacy is negatively effected by perceptions of America support for Israel; that negotiations even with Israel's enemies should be embarked upon; that progress on peace between Israel and the Palestinians is of vital importance; and finally, that America's relationship with Israel cannot come at the expense of its relations with the Arab world. Since being nominated, Hagel has been forced to walk back or explain away all of these statements.
None of these are unreasonable positions; and none of them, if expressed in Israel, would be considered controversial. That expressing these views would lead to such furious opposition – even from members of his own party – is indicative of how constrained US debates have become about Israel. In fact, US policy is held hostage to political orthodoxy, dissuading any public official from departing from the accepted party line. This is, frankly, bad for democracy and bad for US national security interests.
The United States has long played a key role in pushing both Israelis and Palestinians toward reconciliation; but it's hard to imagine such steps being taken when even the slightest deviation from unchallenged backing for Israel leads to unhinged and over-the-top criticism. What's worse: at a time when Israel is moving closer toward permanent occupation of the West Bank, the US may soon find itself allied with a nation that rules over a majority of Arab Palestinians without full political rights, an open and honest debate about US-Israeli relations could not be more vital or urgent.
If the Hagel debacle is any indication, that won't happen any time soon. Those who have made it their goal to prevent any US policy-maker from expressing an opinion that the current Israeli government doesn't want to hear are ensuring a bleak and undemocratic future for the country they profess to be defending.
So, while Chuck Hagel may pay a short-term price by being blocked from becoming Secretary of Defense, it is Israel, the United States and, above all, the Palestinians who will pay a much larger and disastrous penalty for America's constricted debate about Israel.
What was that you were saying about filibuster reform a month ago?
they are doing it for the right reasons
Release the papers Mr. President.
He'll get confirmed.
After watching clips of his performance in the conformation hearings he seems like the buffoon that would fit into this administration.
The only bright spot is possibly he'll for the most part be neutered when the Obama sequester kicks in.
Why Republicans Can No Longer Be Trusted on National Security
Because their leaders have become shallow, ignorant, and totally unserious on the issue that matters most.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, at 6:22 PM ET
It’s been clear, at least since the 2012 election, that the Republican Party has abrogated its role—really, abandoned any interest—in shaping or seriously discussing American foreign policy. But only recently has this indifference shifted into toxic territory, and on Tuesday the fumes formed a poisonous cloud, the likes of which hadn’t been witnessed in decades.
The occasion was the Senate Armed Services Committee’s vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. In the end, Hagel pulled through, but only on a party-line vote (all Democrats in favor, all Republicans opposed) and after a debate that raised doubts less about Hagel than about the modern GOP’s inclination—and the Senate’s ability—to oversee anything as consequential as national security.
Hagel’s Jan. 31 confirmation hearings had been appalling enough—not just for his own lackluster performance, but more for his inquisitors’ bizarrely narrow focus. They asked almost nothing about the issues that will face the next defense secretary: the budget, the roles and missions of the Army, the balance of drones vs. manned aircraft, the size of the Navy, the future of Afghanistan, or the “pivot” from Europe to Asia. Instead, they hectored the nominee about the adequacy of his fealty toward Israel, his animosity toward Iran, and whether he was right or wrong about the 2007 troop-surge in Iraq.
There was all that in the follow-up session on Feb. 12, plus a whiff of paranoia and sedition that’s rarely been cracked open since the days of Joseph McCarthy.
The stench started wafting through the air with the comments of Sen. David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, who trumpeted the warnings that in 2008 Hagel gave a speech to the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Vitter called for halting the hearings until a video of the speech could be found, to see whether the nominee had voiced extremist or anti-Israeli comments.
Then came Sen. Ted Cruz, freshman Republican from Texas, who seemed to be explicitly angling for McCarthy’s inheritance. Cruz shuddered that Hagel had made $200,000 over a two-year period from Corsair Capital, which has contracts abroad, yet he could not tell the committee whether any of that money came from a foreign government. It would be “relevant to know,” Cruz intoned, “if that $200,000 … came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea. I have no evidence to suggest that it is or isn’t,” but there should be an investigation.
At that point, Sen. Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, lambasted Cruz for having “impugned the patriotism” of Hagel, for accusing him of getting “cozy” with terrorists.
Now Cruz is but a freshman; his idiocies can’t be ascribed to his party as a whole. But Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma is the Armed Services Committee’s top-ranking Republican, and he not only sided with Cruz but snapped back at Nelson’s admonitions. Hagel’s nomination had been “endorsed” by the Iranian government, Inhofe said. “You can’t get any cozier than that.”
That was too much for Sen. Carl Levin, the usually amiable and tolerant committee chairman. “I have been endorsed by people I disagree with totally,” he said. “I don’t want people who hate me to ruin my career by endorsing me.”
Sen. Claire McCaskell went further, warning Inhofe and Cruz, in a “have you no shame, senator” moment, to “be careful” with their tactics of character-smear and guilt-by-association.
Even Sen. John McCain, the erstwhile Republican leader, seemed abashed by the storm he’d helped unleashed against the nominee a month before. “I just want to make it clear,” McCain said, “Sen. Hagel is an honorable man. He has served his country. And no one on this committee at any time should impugn his character or his integrity.” It was reminiscent of the time, on the 2008 campaign trail, when a woman, fired up by the gunplay rhetoric of his running mate Sarah Palin, started going on about the socialist Muslim Barack Obama—and McCain felt compelled to dial down the passion, defending his opponent as a good American. One wonders, does McCain lie awake at night, gnashing his teeth at the hash that he’s made of his own reputation and the noisome role he’s played in turning his country’s politics into a cesspool?
Still, McCain’s move to reticence had no effect on Inhofe, who clanged the alarm bells still louder. Hagel, he said, had voted against a bill labeling the Iranian Republican Guard Corps as a terrorist organization (because, by definition, it wasn’t). He’d voted against unilateral sanctions against Iran (because unilateral sanctions have no effect). He’d appeared on Al Jazeera TV and agreed with the show’s hosts that Israel had committed war crimes (the first part is true, the second part is not).
On the few occasions during the session when Republican senators explored substantive issues, it was soon clear they had no idea what they were talking about. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire who has often stood alongside McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham to bash President Obama on Benghazi, tried to make much of Hagel’s co-authorship of a 2012 report by an ad hoc group called the U.S. Global Zero Nuclear Policy Commission. Ayotte expressed shock that, in the wake of North Korea’s third nuclear test, Hagel had not removed his name from this report, which called for eliminating one leg of our nuclear triad. “We have three legs to our nuclear triad,” she said (yes, senator, that’s why it’s called a “triad”), as if it were some nuclear holy trinity.
Ayotte too is new; she seems not to know what a nuclear triad is. She certainly isn’t aware that, even among conservative thinkers in the nuclear-weapons realm, the idea of scrapping one leg of the triad—namely, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles—is at least a respectable notion. The argument is that ICBMs are vulnerable to nuclear attack and, at the same time, tipped with multiple, highly accurate warheads that make an opponent’s ICBMs vulnerable to attack. In other words, by their very existence, ICBMs create an incentive for both sides to launch a pre-emptive attack in the event of a crisis.
But Ayotte’s remarks were seconded by Sen. Jeff Sessions, who does know something about nukes yet seems trapped in 1982. Hagel, he charged, “comes out of the anti-nuclear left,” as if, first of all, there is such a thing these days. It’s worth noting who wrote that Global Zero report along with Hagel: Thomas Pickering, a veteran U.S. diplomat and former ambassador to Moscow; Richard Burt, a State Department negotiator in the Reagan administration; retired Gen. John Sheehan, former commander-in-chief of U.S. Atlantic Command; and—not least—retired Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, before that, head of U.S. Strategic Command, which manages the nuclear arsenal. Hardly a pack of lefties.
Not to sound like a Golden Age nostalgic, but there once was a time when the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee prided themselves on having an understanding of military matters. They disagreed in their conclusions and sometimes their premises. But most of them worked to educate themselves, at least to the point where they could debate the issues, or ask questions of a general without coming off like complete idiots. The sad thing about this new crop of senators—especially on the Republican side—is they don’t even try to learn anything; they don’t care if they look like complete idiots, in part because their core constituents don’t care if they do either.
After Tuesday’s vote, Sen. Levin adjourned the session, saying, “We thank you all, and we look forward to another wonderful year together.” The other senators laughed, but it really wasn’t funny.
WTF Is Going On With Chuck Hagel?
—By Kevin Drum
Thu Feb. 14, 2013 9:05 AM PST
I've been on a semi-news blackout for the past couple of days, but yesterday at lunch we were shooting the breeze about whether Republicans really planned to filibuster Chuck Hagel. This is one of those topics where I'm so gobsmacked by the whole thing that I'm not even sure what to say about it.
It's not that a filibuster would be crazy because Chuck Hagel is himself a Republican. The truth is that he's been an apostate Republican for a while and has very few fans left among his former colleagues. The reason it's crazy is just because it's crazy. If that doesn't seem like the most cogent argument you've ever heard, it's because words sort of fail me here. The scale of the collective temper tantrum from congressional Republicans has simply been off the charts ever since the election. It started with the insane lynch mob that went after Susan Rice, progressed through the fiscal cliff, then more Benghazi craziness, the debt ceiling, the sequester, and now Chuck Hagel. Hell, even Jack Lew—who, you might recall, has been nominated as Treasury Secretary—is getting grilled over what he knew about Benghazi and when he knew it.
This is just insane. If there's one thing practically everyone agrees about, it's that presidents should basically get to pick their own cabinets. You organize an earnest party-line effort to derail someone only if there's some pretty serious evidence of malfeasance or incompetence. Hagel probably won't go down in history as a great Secretary of Defense, but he easily passes that bar. He's a standard issue DC pol with no skeletons in his closet, no bizarre views, and no scandals in his background. You wouldn't normally even object to someone like that, and you certainly wouldn't filibuster him, which is entirely without precedent going back at least 40 years.
So why are Republicans doing this? I can't quite figure it out. Is it a pure pander to the Israel lobby? A way of ginning up the tea party base? Revenge against Hagel for betraying them? Knee-jerk opposition to anything Obama wants? An expression of sheer, uncontrollable rage?
I don't know. I'm beyond understanding this. It's crazy.
Shall we go over the historic obstructionism of the GOP under Obama?
Held the country's economy hostage in the 2011 debt ceiling debacle (unprecedented), established the universal filibuster threshold (unprecedented), filibustered a SecDef nominee (unprecedented), resistance to both Violence Against Women and the Voting Rights Act (first time in 20 and 50 years, respectively)...
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