Chuck Hagel Filibuster Possible As McCain, Graham, Ramp Up Pressure


Having already backed-down over the potential nomination of Susan Rice to secretary of state, the Obama administration is facing fierce opposition from the same Senate Republicans that regarding Chuck Hagel's nomination for secretary of defense.. Whether it is due to Hagel’s personal finances, his "endorsement by Iran", or their general dissatisfaction surrounding the Benghazi massacre, certain members of the Republican Party seem intent on crushing the nomination of one of their own, after Hagel served as a Republican senator from Nebraska. 

President Obama’s nominee to replace the outgoing Leon Panetta has faced major scrutiny in recent weeks. He has, by most accounts, responded poorly, with the best assessments of his performance suggesting that he is gaffe-prone rather than generally insidious. Despite these hiccups, the Senate Armed Services Committee has approved the nomination of Hagel, albeit along party lines, 14-11. However, we will not see a vote on cloture until Friday at the earliest. Assuming all Democrats vote in lock-step for Hagel, he will still need five Republican votes to reach the 60-vote cloture threshold in order to hold an up-or-down vote. However, this appears to be a realistic possibility under the circumstances. Senators Thad Cochran(R-Miss.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) have already voiced public support for Hagel’s nomination, while at least five others are willing to put their distaste for the nominee to one side due to objections regarding the filibuster itself.

Rather than cripple this nomination, the Republican tactic appears to be one of disruption. By showing their intent to slow down any nomination they deem remotely objectionable, they force the administration to either compromise on the candidates that they want, or risk a drawn-out process like this one. In addition, insinuations such as Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) claim that he can’t be certain whether “extreme and radical groups” had compensated Hagel can damage his credibility as a candidate without going to the dreadful inconvenience of providing facts. If they can cause this much frustration at a time when Obama is using his post-election momentum, logic dictates that their tactic could be employed more effectively when this inevitably subsides.

In addition to tactical maneuvering, congressional hearings provide Republicans with an opportunity to once again seek information regarding the supposed Benghazi "cover-up." Lindsay Graham’s (R-S.C.) "No confirmation without information" stance has led to opposition manifesting itself in spurious ways. A secretary of defense nomination has never been filibustered, and only three cabinet members have ever required the 60-vote margin to break it, which shows the lengths to which Graham, McCain, and others are potentially willing to go to essentially grind the government to a halt. It is hard to imagine that any good will for their initial grievance will remain if they continue to act in this fashion.