The Senate GOP's temporary opposition to President Obama's nominee for Defense Secretary is over. Eighteen Republicans joined lock-step Democrats in clearing the way for an up-or-down vote on Chuck Hagel, whose confirmation later today is now all but assured. Hagel's hostility toward our closest ally in the Middle East, offensive comments about "the Jews," embarrassing confirmation hearings, questionable temperament, and manifest unpreparedness for the position were not enough to defeat his nomination. Nor were supportive words from the Iranian government and Louis Farrakhan. Here's your next chief executive of the Department of Defense, America:
The Daily Beast's Eli Lake analyzes the consequences of today's vote:
The three-month battle over Chuck Hagel’s nomination ended with a whimper on Tuesday. Seventy-one senators voted to end debate on the president’s pick for secretary for defense, paving the way for the former Republican senator to be confirmed on a largely party-line vote. It was a victory of sorts for the White House, but Hagel will emerge wounded. “He has had to renounce every contrarian view that endeared him to the president in the first place,” one Republican senate aide said. “Very few people ever thought that you could actually prevent Hagel from being confirmed. In the realm of the possible this as close to a win as you can get.” Nonetheless, the party of Lincoln lost in different ways on the Hagel vote. GOP leaders like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham had tried to use the vote as leverage to get the White House to release more information about the president’s whereabouts and activities on the night of the 9/11 anniversary attack in Benghazi, Libya. That only resulted in a terse letter from the White House counsel this month which essentially restated what was already in the public record about the administration’s contacts with Libyan leaders that evening and the next day.
I tend to adhere to the notion that elections have consequences, and that presidents deserve relatively wide latitude in making high-level appointments. But at what threshold are filibusters worth mounting and sustaining? Hagel opponents like John McCain and David Frum have both asserted that the president's nominee is unqualified for the position he seeks, but McCain voted for cloture anyway, a move supported by Frum. Forget the paper trail, the laundry list of problematic quotes, the bumbling hearings and the insufficient financial disclosure. Shouldn't basic competence be a standard red line for any nominee, especially for someone appointed to an uniquely important position? Allahpundit is repulsed by the whole charade, but he doesn't think the GOP's loud objections to Hagel weren't entirely made in vain:
Was it worth putting up a fuss about Hagel for a few weeks notwithstanding this embarrassing cave by the GOP? Some say no. I’d say yes. Hagel’s chief value to Obama is his party affiliation; he’s supposed to give The One “bipartisan” approval for his defense plans over the next four years. Having Republicans spend a month tearing him up was useful as a way to drain him of that “bipartisan” cred; he ended up being all but excommunicated from the party, even by people who voted yes today. (Recall Susan Collins’s long, long, long critique of Hagel, with her intent to vote for cloture almost a footnote.) He’ll start his tenure as the single weakest member of Obama’s cabinet, which will come in handy when he inevitably carries Obama’s water to the Hill to demand defense cuts.
All hail the new era of smart power. Stay tuned for the final vote on Hagel, which is expected later this afternoon. He will get far fewer votes than the 71 that moved his nomination forward earlier.
UPDATE - Chuck Hagel has been confirmed, 58-41. All voting Democrats supported the nomination. All 41 'no' votes were cast by Republicans. This represents the most votes ever cast against a confirmed SecDef nominee. The four Republicans voting yes were Richard Shelby, Thad Cochran, Mike Johanns and Rand Paul. Paul voted no on cloture (he says he was using that vote as a leverage point for more information on the US citizen/drone program), then yes on final confirmation.