Lots going on in the Hagel front today, Carl Levin Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee plans to hold a vote on the nomination tomorrow afternoon following an executive committee meeting at 2:30. The meeting, according to senior congressional officials, was scheduled with the support of ranking Republican James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Inhofe and Levin spoke Monday morning and agreed upon a time. Senior congressional aides noted that Republicans had a strong desire to hold a meeting specific to the Hagel nomination vote so that members would have an opportunity to voice their concerns, rather than voting during an unrelated hearing.
Aides said Inhofe had every intention of attending the Hagel meeting and, despite rumors that some Republican members might want to walk out of the meeting in protest, he isn’t encouraging such behavior.
“The ranking member is not going to walk out,” a congressional aide said. “It is not what he is calling for and not what he is encouraging.”
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But while there is agreement on holding a vote in committee, there are vast divisions over the Hagel nomination as it goes to the floor.
At the same time Senator John McCain announced that he supported the move to a committee vote and also supported Lindsey Graham’s comments yesterday about placing the nomination on hold.
“I share many of the concerns expressed by my colleagues regarding Senator Chuck Hagel’s positions on many national security policy issues. His performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was discouraging and disappointing, and his often adversarial attitude toward legitimate questions from Committee members was troubling.
“At the same time, I have full confidence in the Committee’s rigorous process for vetting nominees, which has been developed and relied upon for decades by Members of both parties. This process ensures a comprehensive and thorough examination of every aspect of a nominee’s history, including but not limited to personal and public records, tax returns, potential conflicts of interest, and an FBI background check, all carried out by highly experienced professionals from both parties. As a member of the Committee for 26 years, and most recently as Ranking Member, I have always been confident that no matter how I personally felt about a particular nominee, the Committee’s process produced the information that Members needed to make up their minds on the President’s nominees and to vote on them within the Committee.
…..“Finally, I share Senator Graham’s deep concerns about unanswered questions regarding the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. The American people deserve to have all the answers about why four brave Americans died in Benghazi, and this Administration’s actions – including those of the President – before, during and after that tragic day.”
Also over the weekend Ranking Member Inhofe threatened to push for a 60-vote threshold for the floor vote on Hagel,
“I think people will line up to put holds on him once he hits the floor,” one senior GOP aide said.
The aide said that while there have been a host of occasions where nominations were held to a 60-vote threshold, far fewer cabinet level posts have been forced to meet that threshold. Indeed, a cabinet nomination has never been successfully blocked by filibuster.
The GOP aide noted that not since the 1989 nomination of John Tower to take over the Defense Department under George Bush’s administration, has there been such discord over a Defense nomination. Tower eventually lost the vote on the Senate floor.
“I have to put it on par with Tower,” the senior GOP said. “That is how contentious this is. This is a contentious nomination that needs the process that we have gone through.”
Hagel’s younger brother Tom was interviewed on NBC news this morning saying that his brother was “tired” by the ordeal and it has taken a “personal toll,” Tom Hagel said his brother was “ready to deal with it” and prepared “to respond to whatever attacks come out.” And would not withdraw unless the President asked him, something Obama is not likely to do.