It still seems more likely than not that the Senate will confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. But today, there are signs that Senate Republicans may have enough votes to block his nomination while they wait for more information.
According to Politico, Sen. Roy Blunt says he believes there are 40 Senators whose votes would reflect the view that “it’s too quick to end the debate on this nomination.” 41 such Senators would be sufficient to prevent confirmation for the time being.
Blunt referred to the fact that Hagel has not yet responded to requests for information (such as payments to him by foreign entities). He expressed confidence that Hagel will provide the requested information. Whether that confidence is justified, or even genuine, I do not know. But Hagel shouldn’t get an up-or-down vote until he provides the info.
Meanwhile, John McCain plays Hamlet. Having previously said that the Senate shouldn’t filibuster Hagel, McCain now says he hasn’t made up his mind about whether he will vote to end debate and allow a floor vote on the former Nebraska senator’s confirmation. McCain is waiting to see whether President Obama responds to questions about his action (or inaction) during the attack on our consulate in Benghazi.
McCain’s long-time side-kick, Lindsey Graham, has tried to tie an up-or-down vote on the Hagel nomination to Obama answering questions about Benghazi. It’s an improper linkage because, as I argued here, Obama’s response to the Benghazi attack has nothing to do with Hagel’s fitness for Secretary of Defense.
McCain and Graham should be focused on Hagel’s unwillingness to provide information, not Obama’s. Then, perhaps, Senate Republicans could take a coherent and effective “no confirmation without information” stance.