Don’t get too excited. As I’m writing this, CNN is interrupting its round-the-clock coverage of Marco Rubio drinking water to report a
sellout compromise in the offing:
Sources in both parties tell me compromise in the works to delay vote on Hagel, but make it a 51 vote threshold not 60. Deal not done yet
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) February 14, 2013
In the meantime, with a cloture set for tomorrow morning, Reid can’t get to 60 and he’s grumpy about it:
“My Republican colleagues had led us to believe they would not filibuster Senator Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as Secretary of Defense,” Reid (D-NV) said in a statement released by his office. “But that has changed. Now, Senate Republicans have made it clear they intend to mount a full-scale filibuster, and block the Senate from holding a final passage vote on Senator Hagel’s nomination. Make no mistake: Republicans are trying to defeat Senator Hagel’s nomination by filibustering while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied.”
The Journal headlines its piece on this, “Hagel nomination again in jeopardy.” If only that were true. If Reid is short of 60, he’s barely short: He’s got 55 Democrats plus Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, and Mike Johanns. And there’s plenty of reason to think he’ll get at least two more. As Byron York, Philip Klein, and Dave Weigel explain, there’s nothing resembling a unified GOP caucus on this. There’s one group, led by Ted Cruz, that’s prepared to torpedo Hagel, but the rest of the caucus is split among people like McCain and Roy Blunt who don’t necessarily want to block him but want more info on Benghazi or on Hagel’s foreign sources of income before voting for cloture. It’s impossible to believe that Reid won’t ultimately get a couple of votes from that group especially once the media starts hammering the “obstructionist Republicans” message, never mind the fact that Democrats happily filibustered John Bolton in 2005. Unnamed Republican senators are telling Fox News flat out that Hagel will eventually be confirmed, just not tomorrow. So, yay for taking a stand.
Serious question: If Hagel doesn’t deserve to be blocked, who does? His opponents have seized on his anti-Israel rhetoric, more of which emerges every week, but as contemptible as it is, I don’t think that’s reason to filibuster. Democrats are right when they say that the president deserves wide latitude in choosing his cabinet; if The One wants to bear the political consequences of appointing a guy known for babbling about the “Jewish lobby,” that’s on him. The reason to block Hagel is that he’s manifestly unprepared for the job and isn’t all that shy about admitting it. When concerns about a nominee shift from political disagreement to questions about his basic competence then the “advise and consent” role should require stopping the nomination even with a filibuster. At that point it’s no longer a dispute over foreign policy, it’s about protecting the military from mismanagement. Typically you don’t worry about a president putting the Senate in a position like that but Obama wants his Republican rubber-stamp nominee so he’s willing to skimp on qualifications. He deserves to have a pick this cynical blocked.
Update: Dan Foster’s right. If a cave is inevitable here, let’s get on with it:
Okay, so what are you going to learn about Hagel in the next ten days? Is there some bombshell you’ve got ready but you need a little more time to cross the t’s and dot the i’s? Are you using this holdup as leverage to get something else you want? Do you think peeling ten days off the calendar is going to prevent Harry Reid from bringing some odious measure to the floor? Is Lindsey Graham suddenly going to get those elusive “answers” on Benghazi? If the answer to all of these questions is “no,” just what the hell is the point of waiting to confirm Hagel?
Update: Here we go.
Senate to vote on cloture for Hagel at 4:15 pm et. Needs 60 votes.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) February 14, 2013
Either he finally, and quietly, got those final two GOP votes he needs or he’s pushing this now to dare Republicans to follow through on their filibuster promise and risk a week of “UNPRECEDENTED OBSTRUCTION!” headlines.