As expected, the Senate has confirmed Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. The confirmation occurred through two votes. First, the Senate voted by 71-27 in favor of cloture. This ended “debate” and meant that Hagel would get an “up-or-down” vote. In that vote, Hagel was confirmed by a margin of 58-41.
18 Republican Senators voted to end cloture. They are:
Alexander (Tenn.), Ayotte (N.H), Blunt (Mo.), Burr (N.C.), Chambliss (Ga.), Coburn (Okla.), Cochran (Miss.), Collins (Maine), Corker (Tenn.), Flake (Ariz.), Graham (S.C.), Hatch (Utah), Johanns (Neb.), McCain (Ariz.), Murkowski (Alaska), Sessions (Ala.), Shelby (Ala.) and Thune (S.D.).
4 Republican Senators voted in favor of confirming Hagel. They are:
Cochran, Johanns, Shelby, and Paul (Ky.).
Rand Paul’s voting pattern seems incoherent; he voted to filibuster Hagel, but then to confirm him. But Paul has a plausible, though hardly compelling, rationale. He says he supported the filibuster because he wanted to force the administration to provide more information about drone attacks. Once cloture was invoked, he voted to confirm Hagel because he gives the president leeway when it comes to selecting his cabinet.
Nearly everyone believes the president should have a certain amount of leeway in selecting his cabinet. That’s why John Kerry was confirmed almost unanimously.
But only 3 other Republicans believed that the president’s leeway is such that the Senate should confirm a nominee (1) whose qualifications are suspect and (2) whose views on key issues — in this case Iran and Israel — are well outside of the mainstream (to the point that he had to back away from some of them during the confirmation process) and are inconsistent positions espoused by the president during his election campaign.
Did Rand Paul vote for Hagel because he’s at the extreme end of his party on the question of how much deference a president’s nominees should receive? Or did he vote for Hagel because he’s on the extreme end of his party on the question of whether Hagel’s positions on Israel, Iran, defense spending, etc. are misguided.
Given some of Paul’s past pronouncements, I suspect it’s the latter. But in either case, Paul’s 2016 credentials may have taken a blow.
Either he’s overly deferential to President Obama or overly sympathetic to the views of Chuck Hagel. Neither position is likely to endear him to conservative primary voters outside of his father’s base.