The symbolic show of opposition to moving forward with a vote on the nomination of Chuck Hagel pre-recess wavered enough today to see the former Nebraska senator confirmed as the next secretary of Defense.
The Senate voted on cloture, or an end to debate, around noon. It was the same procedural hurdle Hagel couldn’t clear before the Senate left for Presidents Day week.
Today Hagel’s nod made it through the 60-vote-threshold cloture vote 71-27, with 18 Republicans in favor. Hours later, the Senate confirmed Hagel 58-41.
“What has their filibuster gained my Republican colleagues? Twelve days later, nothing has changed,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said earlier on the floor. “Twelve days later, Senator Hagel’s exemplary record of service to his country remains untarnished. Twelve days later, President Obama’s support for this qualified nominee is still strong. Twelve days later, the majority of Senators still support his confirmation.”
One of the surprising votes for Hagel was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Richard C. Shelby (Ala.) also crossed party lines to vote yes.
Paul, who supported the block of Hagel’s nomination before Presidents Day, told reporters after today’s confirmation “there are very few things I agree with the president on, but the president gets to choose political appointees.”
One of the expected “no” votes was from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“I oppose the nomination of Chuck Hagel to serve as our next Secretary of Defense. The position of Secretary of Defense is one of the most important jobs in our government. There were other, more capable choices available and I regret President Obama did not choose one of them,” Graham said.
“I’m disappointed not one Democrat stepped forward to express concerns about Senator Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran. I believe from his past actions, he has shown antagonism toward the State of Israel. In these dangerous times, his nomination sends the worst possible signal to our enemies in Iran,” he continued. “I continue to have serious questions about whether Chuck Hagel is up to the job of being our Secretary of Defense. I hope, for the sake of our own national security, he exceeds expectations.”
“There is simply no way to sugarcoat it: Senator Hagel’s performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was remarkably inept, and we should not be installing a Defense Secretary who is obviously not qualified for the job, and who holds dangerously misguided views on some of the most important issues facing national security policy for our country,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in a floor speech opposing cloture.