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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2789

Republican opposition blocks Hagel nomination for US defense secretary

Daya Gamage - Asian Tribune News Analysis
Washington, D.C. 15 February (

When Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for the post of Defense Secretary was a Republican Party Senator, the same party to which President Bush belonged, he totally opposed the invasion of Sadham Hussein's Iraq. He was critical of Israel's pugnacious attitude toward events in the Middle East.

He was also, during Obama's first term, opposed the American troop increase in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, he never advocated an invasion of Iran. In short, he was not prepared to endorse the policies of 'war mongering' Republicans, his own party colleagues.

Mr. Hagel, out of the US Senate now, is paying that price these two weeks as Mr. Obama's nominee for the defense post for all those policy positions.

He is in favor of Obama's last week decision rejecting former secretary of State Clinton and Defense Department/CIA proposal to arm the Syrian rebels some of whom are affiliated to splinter al Qaeda groups.

The Republican Party wants someone in that position who could go to war with Iran; use military pressure on North Korea; intervene, with military boots, in the Middle East and North Africa and unconditionally support Israel that may block the road toward 'two-state' solution.

Chuck Hagel was not the person to bid to the liking of the Republican Party 'war mongers'.

So on Thursday, 14 February the Senate Republicans effectively blocked Mr. Hagel getting his confirmation to head the Pentagon. And, President Obama was put in a difficult position because next week in Europe a vital national security/defense conference is taking place sans the US defense secretary.

Representative democracy sometimes can go wrong (or wild) when there is excessive checks and balances inbuilt into the system.

Senate Republicans in a 58-40 vote Thursday blocked former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s (R-Nebraska.) nomination as Defense Secretary from proceeding to a final up-or-down vote meaning a simple majority (51) vote.

Several days before the Senate Armed Services Committee, on partisan lines, decided to send his nomination to the full Senate.

Immediately after blocking Chuck Hagel's nomination, top Republicans took to the Senate floor Thursday to claim that, no, they were not filibustering. They just needed more time.

A filibuster occurs when a minority of the Senate declines to vote to invoke what's called "cloture," which sets a deadline to complete debate on a nomination or bill and forces an up or down vote. It takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to obtain cloture.

But to Democrats, the vote to deny cloture on Hagel's nomination was a historic, first-ever successful filibuster of a Cabinet nominee and the first time the party in the Senate's minority had ever even tried the move against a defense secretary nominee.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution more than two centuries ago introduced a (60-vote) filibuster to have greater and broader consensus on issues rather than the majority party having a steam-roller clout.

It seems likely the former senator from Nebraska will be confirmed when the Senate returns to Washington the week of Feb. 25. The Senate is going into a recession from next Monday for a week.

The unprecedented act of Senate Republicans was a severe rebuke to the White House.

Falling one vote shy of the 60 needed to move forward on the nomination, the Hagel filibuster brought stark condemnations from President Obama and Senate Democrats for its precedent-setting nature -- the first time a defense secretary nominee had been filibustered. The setback came during what many believe is a critical period for the Pentagon as it winds down troops from Afghanistan and implements costly budget cuts, and of course the vital defense/military/security confab in Europe next week.

It was also a hard slap to a former colleague and member of the chamber.

Asked about the Senate vote during an online “fireside hangout,” Obama said that he expects that Hagel will be confirmed. But he slammed Senate Republicans for their “unprecedented filibuster” of a defense chief nominee.

“What seems to be happening, and this has been growing over time, is the Republican minority in the Senate seems to think that the rule now is that you need to have 60 votes for everything,” Obama said. “Well, that’s not the rule.”

He added that “it’s just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I’m still presiding over a war in Afghanistan and I need a secretary of defense who is coordinating with our allies” on U.S. strategy in the regio

- Asian Tribune -

Obama's Defense Secretary-nominee former senator Chuck Hagel
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