If you like drama in politics, the real kind, not the kind we see on TV, watch what happens next on the Hagel nomination.
Yesterday, the Democrats on the Armed Services Committee voted unanimously to report the Hagel nomination to the floor of the Senate. Harry Reid has already promised to take it up in a big hurry-maybe even today.
Unless those damn Republicans show a shocking lack of respect for Precedent and filibuster the nomination. And instead of the nice, polite Senate courtesies, Reid has apparently said that those opposing the nomination will need to be present on the floor to object. Then he will file a cloture petition, which will essentially start a countdown to the vote. If Hagel can’t get 60 votes for cloture, his nomination is effectively killed.
Of course, there is a good chance they can dig up five Republicans to back the President. We know they have two, but we don’t know who the other three might be just yet. Some Republicans may back Hagel because they will decide if Hagel is withdrawn, the next one might be even worse.
Politico has a caption: “Even if Hagel cracks the 60-vote threshold, the GOP will have sent a message.” The Hill has two stories: One that says some GOP senators will filibuster and the other saying Harry Reid predicts they won’t. The Washington Post snarks that Sen Lindsay Graham is just trying to shine up his conservative credentials by opposing Hagel. The other Republicans are just plain partisan, of course.
What should have been a fig leaf of bipartisanship, a pretense of a strong defense advocate because everyone knows Republicans are strong on defense—has fooled no one. Whether Hagel is qualified, whether he will eagerly facilitate the reining in of the department, these are all substantive arguments to be made or refuted. The weak qualifications, questionable judgment, the blind partisan support of the President—we’ve seen it all before. It’s called politics.
If he is confirmed, Hagel will be damaged goods, unlikely to manage DoD or be its advocate. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for the administration. Quite the contrary. However, just as the President now owns the economy, he will own defense policy. He has chosen a weak nominee, and chosen to keep him. The international implications and the impact on our safety will be on him.