SASC to Vote on Hagel Nomination Tomorrow
President Obama's nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense (SecDef) will come to a vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) tomorrow, February 12. SASC will take up the nomination at 2:30 pm ET.
His nomination is quite controversial and SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) postponed a vote planned for last week after Republicans insisted that Hagel provide more information. The White House, however, is anxious to get a new SecDef in place before scheduled NATO meetings in Brussels next week.
Senate Democrats hope to get the nomination cleared by SASC tomorrow and through the Senate on Thursday. The committee vote is expected to be party-line and since there are 14 Democrats and 12 Republicans, it should pass.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had to step down from his position as top Republican (Ranking Member) on the committee because of Senate Republican term limit rules, but he continues to be a member of the committee and his voice still carries significant weight. In response to insistence by some of his Republican colleagues that Hagel provide more information about his finances, McCain said in a statement today that Hagel has "fulfilled the rigorous requirements that the Committee demands of every Presidential nominee to be Secretary of Defense." Some Republicans have threatened to walk out of the vote. McCain made clear that he would not participate in any walkout that "would be disrespectful to Chairman Levin and at odds with the best traditions of the Senate Armed Services Committee."
McCain's statement today reiterated his strong reservations against Hagel's nomination, but he also opposes those in his party who have threatened to filibuster the nomination on the Senate floor. That group includes McCain's successor as SASC Ranking Member, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who said on Fox News this weekend that he wants to require Hagel to get at least 60 votes and if that means a filibuster, he will mount one. McCain and others insist there has never been, and should not be, a filibuster on a Cabinet nomination, that it should be an up-or-down vote instead.
Hagel, a Republican, is opposed by many of those in his own party for a variety of reasons, including his positions on Israel and Iran. So far, all Senate Democrats apparently are prepared to vote for him if for no other reason than he is the President's choice. If the vote is decided by a simple majority, he will be confirmed since there are 53 Democrats. There also are 2 independents who usually vote with the Democrats. Only two Republicans (Cochran and Johanns) have indicated so far that they will vote for him, so if Republicans are successful in forcing a 60-vote margin, it will be close.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that one reason for wanting the Hagel nomination resolved quickly was because of a desire to have him in office before the NATO meetings next week, which is correct, but the article also said it was because Leon Panetta's last day in office was last Friday. Mr. Panetta gave his retirement speech on Friday, but has not yet left office.
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