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Senate Majority Leader Says ‘It’s Tragic’ GOP Is Filibustering Hagel

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"Senate Majority Leader Says ‘It’s Tragic’ GOP Is Filibustering Hagel"

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Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that he has scheduled a cloture vote for Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Defense Secretary for Friday morning.

In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, Reid lambasted Republicans for their “unprecedented” obstruction on Hagel (this is the first time in the history of the United States that a president’s nominee for Defense Secretary has been filibustered). “It’s shocking,” Reid said, “that my Republican colleagues would leave the country without a fully empowered Secretary of Defense during all the things that we have going on in the world including a war”:

REID: I have heard speeches from the other side a lot saying, “you know the president should have the right to choose whoever he wants.” He has the support of this body, a majority vote in this body in this democracy. We are a nation, Mr. President, at war. We are whether we like it or not the world’s indispensable leader. We’re it. For the sake of our national security it’s time to put aside this political theatre and that’s what it is.

People are worried about primary elections. We know how the Tea Party goes after Republicans when they aren’t conservative enough. Is that something they need to have on their resume? “I filibustered one of the president’s nominees.” Is that what they want? The filibuster of Senator Hagel’s confirmation is unprecedented. I repeat. Not a single nominee for Secretary of Defense ever in the history of our country has been filibustered. Never, ever!

“We need a Secretary of Defense,” Reid said later. “It’s tragic that they’ve decided to filibuster this qualified nominee. It is really unfortunate.” Watch the clip:

Senate Democratic aides are reportedly saying they may not have enough votes to break the filibuster while some are reporting that there are enough votes for cloture, but the actual vote on Hagel’s nomination won’t take place until after the recess.

However, NATO is hosting Defense Minister meetings next week in Brussels where the allies will discuss the ongoing war in Afghanistan. “We need our new defense secretary to be there,” a White House spokesperson said today, calling the GOP obstruction “unconscionable” and adding, “It does not send a favorable signal for the Republicans of the U.S. senate to delay a vote. …It’s difficult to explain to our allies why that’s happening.”

Video transcript:

REID: That we have now in the Senate a situation in the Senate where we’re going to wind up without a Secretary of Defense. At this time. We heard all the talk. “We have some questions about Sen. Hagel.” Keep in mind, Mr. President, he’s a Republican. We have some questions to ask but publically significant number of Republican Senators said they would not filibuster. Remember, there has never been in the history of the country been a filibuster of a Defense Secretary nominee. Never. But now – I had to file cloture on this.

Now all – not all the shows – but a number of shows attacked me last night. “We told Reid and all his people that we shouldn’t have agreed to the rules changes because this is what we have going on.” I’m ignoring that, Mr. President. But it’s shocking that my Republican colleagues would leave the country without a fully empowered Secretary of Defense during all the things that we have going on in the world including a war. Several of my colleagues sent a letter, I’m sorry, requested a letter from the President. The letter was sent at their request to the Chairman of the committee which is standard procedure, Sen. Levin, answering all their questions. They said ‘Well we need that letter so we can vote.’ One stall after another.

Now I’m told that the letter was sent to the Chair of the committee and that’s not good enough, they want it sent to the individual Senators. Now this isn’t a high getting ready for a football game or some play that’s being produced at a high school. We are trying to confirm somebody to run the defenses of our country, the military of our country.

That letter was received yesterday about four o’clock. So now as I indicated they want something else. Mr. President, the committee of jurisdiction, the Armed Services Commitee, they have extensive information on Chuck Hagel. They have as much information that’s available on Benghazi situation. Testimony from administration officials, from multiple committees, an independent review board. Sec. Clinton testified, Sec. Panetta – who is leaving his job in two hours — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and others have already testified on the attack that claimed four American lives. Chuck Hagel had nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi. “The Administration hasn’t been forthcoming” is outlandish. There are serious consequences to this delay. Consequences that are occurring right now. [...]

I have heard speeches from the other side a lot saying, “you know the president should have the right to choose whoever he wants.” He has the support of this body, a majority vote in this body in this democracy. We are a nation, Mr. President, at war. We are whether we like it or not the world’s indispensable leader. We’re it. For the sake of our national security it’s time to put aside this political theatre and that’s what it is. People are worried about primary elections. We know how the Tea Party goes after Republicans when they aren’t conservative enough. Is that something they need to have on their resume? “I filibustered one of the president’s nominees.” Is that what they want? The filibuster of Senator Hagel’s confirmation is unprecedented. I repeat. Not a single nominee for Secretary of Defense ever in the history of our country has been filibustered. Never, ever! [...]

Just a minute about Senator Hagel. He was an enlisted man in the Vietnam war. He didn’t have to go, he enlisted. The story of Senator Hagel is not a legend, it’s true. He was a heroic warrior. He was an infantry man. He saved his brother’s life. When he was a Senator here, the picture he had on his wall is him and his brother in Vietnam on a personnel carrier. He’s proud of his service. He should be. Wounded two times. Infantry squad leader. A man of integrity and dedication. He has a deep understanding of our national security establishment, gained not only from his military service, but as a United States senator, a member of the foreign relations committee, a member of the intelligence committee. He’s been a member of the President’s foreign intelligence advisory board at a time when America faces so many threats. … We need a Secretary of Defense. It’s tragic that they’ve decided to filibuster this qualified nominee. It is really unfortunate.

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