The Senate Armed Committee finally voted—14 to 11— to advance Chuck Hagel’s nomination through to a full senate vote for the Secretary of Defense post.
Tuesday’s vote follows a one week delay and contentious battles between some Democrats and Republicans over Hagel’s qualifications for the job.
Of course the votes were along party lines, but the 11 outnumbered Republicans did not miss the opportunity to pepper in some zingers.
“I admire his service to his country. The job that he did. His purple hearts and all of that. The question is, in my mind, is that—and only that alone—enough justification for confirming him to the nomination for the Secretary of Defense,” said Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla.
“I was very troubled that he did not know, clearly, what our position was when it came to containment,” added Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
“There’s the left lane in politics, the right lane and the middle lane. And when it comes to some of the Israeli/Iranian issues there’s the Chuck Hagel lane. I say dumb things everyday. But it’s a series of things, a series of votes. An edge about him that makes many of us unnerved about his selection at a time when the world is on fire,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Other points of criticism include past comments in which the former senator described ambassadorial nominee, James Hormel, as “openly, aggressively gay”, and his 2006 comment that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people.”
Hagel’s finances are also being questioned. Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who raised the issue in Tuesday’s committee discussion and vote, drafted a letter to Hagel, requesting further financial disclosures for past earnings over $5000 within the last five years—a move Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., described as unprecedented and “way beyond the rules of the committee.”
In an interview with the National Review, Inhofe said, “Hagel may be passed out of the committee, but it’s going to be a long, long time before he hits the floor.”
However, the White House doesn’t appear fazed by the threat of filibuster.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney said, “We believe firmly that the—Senator Hagel will be confirmed as the next secretary of defense…I would point you to what Senator McCain said, who obviously has been very vocal in his views on a number of these issues, where he said, we, quote, have never filibustered a Cabinet appointee, and I do not believe we should filibuster his nomination, speaking of Senator Hagel.”
Although Mr. Hagel has cleared one hurdle, another awaits him when his nomination is put to a full senate vote on Wednesday or Thursday of this week.