Republicans Take Hagel Hostage Due To Extended Hissy Fit Over Benghazi

Senate Republicans are holding up Chuck Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense until they get more information on Benghazi, an issue that has nothing to do with Hagel.

Chuck Hagel
UPDATE: We now have the official tally of votes on cloture for the Hagel nomination. Every Democrat voted Yes (except for Harry Reid for procedural reasons explained below). Three Republicans also voted Yes: Susan Collins (ME), Thad Cochran (MS) and Lisa Murkowski (AK). Orrin Hatch (UT) voted "present," David Vitter (LA) did not vote, and all other Republicans voted No.

UPDATE: A vote on cloture for the Hagel nomination failed to reach the 60 vote threshold, failing 58-40-1. It was actually  just one vote short, because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote to "No" when it became clear that he would not reach 60 votes, a procedural move that allows him to bring up the nomination again later. The "1" above was from one senator who voted "present." Despite the setback, it seems likely enough that Hagel will be confirmed within a couple of weeks.

Senate Republicans, led by military hawks John McCain and Lindsay Graham, are demanding more information on the Benghazi attacks before confirming Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Many believe that Hagel will eventually be confirmed, but Republicans want to force a choice between slowing down Senate operations or extracting more Benghazi information, which Republicans really want to be a scandal, but probably just isn't. It also has nothing to do with Chuck Hagel or even the Defense Department (the Benghazi attacks were a State Department matter).

Complicating the matter is that today is Leon Panetta's last day as Defense Secretary, and so until a new one is confirmed, the U.S. has no Defense Secretary. The opposition to Hagel is nearly unprecedented: Defense Secretary nominees typically sail through confirmation with bipartisan support. It is particularly weird that Hagel is the one inspiring this opposition: he is a decorated Vietnam veteran and a former Republican senator. Then again, despite Republican grumbles over Hagel's opposition to the Iraq War (back when there was one--remember that?), and his relatively (key word) soft stance toward Iran, what is ultimately holding up Hagel's nomination doesn't have to do with Hagel.

Still, it is presumed that cooler heads will prevail.

So, Republicans, as they have been known to since Obama took office, will be stalling Hagel for political gain, but not because they actually oppose his nomination to actually block him from becoming Secretary of Defense.

Still to be determined: does Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid still hold a Hagel confirmation vote now to point out Republican intransigence, or does he take the more docile route and wait? Stay tuned.

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