The Senate GOP made history on Thursday, successfully filibustering a president’s choice for Defense Secretary. Senate Republicans — with the exception of a few — voted against a cloture motion yesterday afternoon, thus preventing an up-or-down vote to approve their former colleague Chuck Hagel and delaying his confirmation until after the President’s Day recess.
In a scathing editorial, the New York Times blasted the Republicans, saying “they hit a new low” in their four-year campaign of obstructing anything President Obama wants to get done:
The Republicans claimed they needed more information about Mr. Hagel, though he answered every question at his confirmation hearing and provided more paperwork than usual. As a former Republican senator, in fact, Mr. Hagel is better known to his old colleagues than most nominees. A delay of another week or two, which some members said they were seeking, is not going to change anyone’s opinion.
Other media figures piled on as well. “It looks terrible to people overseas,” TIME Magazine’s Mark Thompson said on PBS’s Newshour, adding, “you want a secretary of defense, especially when you’re at war and especially when you have these other issues hanging over your head. No good can come from this ambiguity that we’re currently facing.”
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, himself a former Republican congressman, was particularly upset with the Senate Republicans’ hold up of Hagel, expressing disbelief at Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) admission on Thursday that he’s opposing Hagel because Hagel broke with the GOP on the Iraq war: “They don’t have a Secretary of Defense running the Pentagon because of a 6 or 7 year old grudge? Really?”:
SCARBOROUGH: For the 66,000 troops currently serving in Afghanistan and for their families all across America this morning, I’m sure they’re glad to know that we don’t have a Secretary of Defense in place and we’re not going to because of 7-year-old political grudge. Forget about sequestration, forget about all the cuts, there are men and women on the ground in Afghanistan today fighting and possibly dying for this country and they don’t have a Secretary of Defense running the Pentagon because of a 6 or 7 year old grudge? Really? Is that how small we’ve become? And because this guy is disagreeable? …. It’s sort of frightening isn’t it?
“This filibuster, with the recess, permits the opposition to keep upping the ante,” said NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell in the same segment, adding, “Every time Chuck Hagel turns a corner, they’re throwing something else at him. Benghazi wasn’t even on his watch.” Watch the clip:
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“The impressive thing about the anti-Hagel effort is how politically tone-deaf it is,” writes the American Conservative’s Daniel Larison. It’s not just that their opposition is misguided, but they stand to gain nothing from it. No one outside of a small core of hard-liners sympathizes with what Senate Republicans are doing.”
“The Constitution says the Senate must give or withhold its consent to presidential nominees,” the Times notes, “it does not give minority blocs the power to determine the outcome.”
Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum observes:
I bow to no one in my belief that Republicans have gone off the rails in their opposition to Hagel. I don’t buy for a second the argument that, hey, maybe Republicans have some legitimate questions about Hagel’s role in drone warfare. There might be legitimate questions about his role, but the actual Senate hearings have made crystal clear that among Republican ranks, they couldn’t care less about that. They love drones. They’ve asked no substantive questions about that at all. It’s all Israel, Benghazi, Israel, Iran, Israel, “Friends of Hamas,” and Israel.