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Obama's Second Term

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Hagel Nomination Blocked for Now

February 15th 2013

Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel

"Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it gets worse," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said late Thursday, as Senate Republicans successfully blocked a confirmation vote on Chuck Hagel's nomination for secretary of defense.

The move was unprecedented. Traditionally, the president is granted wide latitude on his choice of cabinet secretaries, but Hagel's controversial history, his opposition to the Iraq surge, his hostile attitude toward Israel, his attacks on fellow Republicans, and a disastrous appearance at a committee hearing all conspired to provoke the Republican move.

Hagel required the support of 60 senators in order to move his nomination to a final vote. In what the New York Times describes as "a result that broke down almost strictly along party lines," the nominee fell two votes short of the required amount.

The blocking move, described by Democrats as a "filibuster," is deeply embarrassing for President Obama and risky for Senate Republicans, who may be perceived as meddling with America's national security for political purposes.

But Hagel is furiously opposed by many groups, including pro-Israel, feminist, and gay rights organizations, and his inconclusive and evasive answers on such issues as Iran and its nuclear program have proven unacceptable to Senate defense hawks.

Ranking Republican Senator John McCain said that the filibuster was "a time-honored practice," and that Republicans were using it to "get information" from the administration on its handling of the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi.

At the same time, groups that oppose Hagel pledged to continue their fight. "My intention," said the head of Christians United for Israel, "is to keep doing what we’re doing, but only to escalate the effort."


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