Republicans Block Hagel for Ten More Days

Sometimes, winning leads to a much larger defeat. This could be one of those times.

These next ten days may well be the darkest moments in the life of the Republican party, and its allies in the right-wing government of Israel.


by James M Wall


The agreement Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid (NV) thought he had reached with Republican leader Mitch McConnell (KY), died a slow, angry and ugly death Thursday.

When this new Senate held its first session in January, younger and more progressive Democratic members of the Senate wanted Harry Reid to take advantage of having a Democratic majority.


Photo: AP Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. makes his way to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, after a Democratic caucus meeting. Senate Democrats and the White House struggled to break an impasse Thursday over Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense, with Republicans blocking speedy confirmation of their former colleague and Vietnam combat veteran.

They urged him to make changes in the senate’s archaic rules while he had a Democratic majority vote. That action may only be taken at the start of a new congress.

Reid loves the senate and he loves its traditions. He refused to take advantage of his majority. Instead he trusted Mitch McConnell to keep his Republican minority caucus in line without any real rule changes.

Don’t they trade horses in Reid’s Nevada? Doesn’t Harry know that if a horse trader offers you a “too good to be true deal on a mare”, look closely at the animal’s past history and then study her teeth?

Harry Reid was snookered (tricked, fooled) by Mitch McConnell, who promised him a good deal on a mare in a deal that was “too good to be true” way to run the senate, the old way.

Reid was also snookered by John McCain (AZ) and Lindsay Graham (SC), (above) two veteran members of the senate who claim all they want is “more information” on what happened at Benghazi before they would allow an up or down vote on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.

That is Republican-speak that has nothing to do with Benghazi and everything to do with their awareness that Hagel does not meet their “I love Israel” taste test.

A snookered Reid was so angry about what was obviously a move to a  filibuster by the Republicans, that he called for an up or down cloture (“closure”) vote on whether or not to end debate on Hagel’s confirmation.

The Republicans knew he would lose that vote. They politely suggested a delay in the vote until February 26 giving them more time to find something, anything, that would disqualify Hagel as defense secretary. They have been looking since December and they have always come up empty-handed.

Hagel is backed by virtually everyone but Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Republican party “I love Israel” senators.

Reid is not only a lousy horse trader, he also failed the test of a savvy legislative leader: Know your vote total before you call for cloture.

Under those archaic senate rules Reid refused to change back in January when he had his chance to do so, a cloture vote needs a 60 vote majority to close debate and make way for an up or down simple majority vote on a nomination like Hagel’.

Reid started with 55 affirmative Democratic votes. Even conservative Democratic senators in danger of neoconservative primary opponents, stuck with Reid. After that, Reid needed five more senators to win the cloture vote and end debate.

The Democrats picked up four Republican votes in favor of cloture, Senators Mike Johanns (NE), Susan Collins (ME), Thad Cochran (MS) and Lisa Murkowski (AK)  Republican Senator Orrin Hatch (UT) voted present. Hatch’s support would have put the total at a winning total of 60.

The final vote on cloture was 58 for and 40 against.  Reid reversed his vote to against, in order to be able to call for the vote again after the senate returns February 25 or 26, a motion only an against voter may make.

When Reid spoke on the senate floor Thursday afternoon, he expressed frustration over the tactics of the obstructionists–led by  Senators James Inhofe (OK), John McCain (AZ) and Lindsay Graham (SC)–which forced the cloture vote that Reid lost.

But be not fooled, this whole process has been a charade to snooker the public into believing the Republicans speak the truth when they say they only want to know about Hagel’s finances, or Benghazi, or organization boards on which he sits, or speeches he has given throughout his career.

What really drives the Republicans is a desire to undermine a sitting Democratic president. Mitch McConnell famously said at the start of Obama’s first term was that the Republicans would spend four years of non-cooperation with Obama. What the McCain-Graham-Inhofe filibuster is all about is a continuation of McConnell’s anti-Obama strategy from the first term.

In moving toward the cloture vote and the filibuster, Republicans threw up a variety of reasons for opposing Obama’s nominee for defense secretary. The reason menu had changed as often as your local restaurant changes its daily specials.

The current obstructionist rationale du jour is an old favorite, the special that first delighted the Republican conservative base’s palates when Susan Rice’s name was initially suggested as Obama’s next secretary of state, what happened at Benghazi.

First, with Rice and now with Hagel, Republicans are dishing out familiar questions: What does the White House know–and when did the White House know–the “full truth” about the four tragic American deaths at Benghazi.

That demand is leveled at President Obama, of course, since neither Hagel nor Rice had any responsibility in the events surrounding the Benghazi deaths.

To attack and smear Hagel, Republicans have falsely questioned his character and his integrity, including the absurd implication that he has the backing of Iran in his quest for confirmation.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has recently leveled her playful commentator style at Republicans who have been obstructing Democratic nominees.

When hearings began on the now-confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry, and the still-pending Chuck Hagel, Maddow skewed Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz for his aspersions against both Kerry and Hagel. The clip below includes a section of a speech Cruz made during an event sponsored by a media powerhouse of the conservative movement, the National Review.



The Republican congressional obstructionists, including Ted Cruz, have delayed the confirmation of Chuck Hagel for another ten days. When they return to work on February 25 or 26, they will have a pile of clippings to read, including these opening lines from an editorial in the New York Times that ran the day after they left town:

For the last four years, Senate Republicans have used the power of the filibuster to block legislation, bottle up nominees to courts and government departments, and strangle federal agencies, even though they are in the minority.

On Thursday, they hit a new low. They successfully filibustered Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, the first time a cabinet nominee for this post has been prevented from receiving an up-or-down vote.

These next ten days may well be the darkest moments in the life of the Republican party, and its allies in the right-wing government of Israel. Sometimes, winning leads to a much larger defeat.  This could be one of those times.

James Wall blogs at Wallwritings

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Posted by on Feb 15 2013, With 0 Reads, Filed under Civil Liberties, Corruption, Cost to the US, Editors' Picks, Expert Viewpoints, Foreign Policy, Government, Israel Lobby in Action, Legislation, Politico. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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