National Security Brief: Hagel Cloture Vote Looms

The Senate is scheduled to vote on Tuesday on whether to move forward on whether to consider Chuck Hagel’s nomination as the next Defense Secretary. Republicans blocked Hagel earlier this month and now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he will try to end the filibuster today. If Hagel receives the 60 votes necessary to break the filibuster, Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will negotiate when the final vote will take place within the next 30 hours.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who voted with Republicans in blocking Hagel, said on Monday that he’s still undecided on whether he will end up voting to confirm the former Republican senator from Nebraska. “I voted for John Kerry and I agree with nothing he represents,” he said, “but I voted for him because I thought there was a level of at least basic human decency and honesty that exists there … and that the president has the prerogative to determine political appointees.”

Meanwhile, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, eager to make his Pentagon departure official, is working from home in California and will reportedly watch the proceedings on C-Span.

“If confirmed,” says a New York Times editorial today, “Mr. Hagel will have to try to mend at least some fences in the Senate. But it would be a tragedy if the confirmation process stifled his willingness to speak out and provide Mr. Obama with the best advice possible.”

In other news:

  • As a new round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran begin over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wrote in an op-ed on Monday that containing Iran should it acquire nuclear weapons is a better option than going to war.
  • The Times reports: “Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to antigovernment fighters in Syria in a drive to break the bloody stalemate that has allowed President Bashar al-Assad to cling to power.” Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama administration is considering new ways to assist the rebels.
  • Reuters reports: Military veterans who have been deployed overseas for prolonged periods struggle to find work because of the traumas of war, as well as training that does not readily translate into the civilian world, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • The Hill reports: Sanctions and regulations against Iran are having an “adverse” effect on the country’s economy, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Monday.