The United States Senate declined to support Secretary of Defense nominee and former Senator Chuck Hagel today, after failing to reach consensus to clear a Senate procedural hurdle. Even before the vote, the White House was quick to label requests for further information on Hagel’s finances “unconscionable” and urge confirmation without delay. Apparently the Administration has forgotten its own history of opposition to Cabinet nominees.
The truth is that opposition to Cabinet-level appointees is nothing new. In fact, then-Senator Barack Obama voted three times to block Bush Administration Cabinet nominees. Were these three separate instances “unconscionable” as well? In fact, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry all voted to block two Bush appointees: John Bolton for U.S. Representative to the United Nations, and Stephen Johnson for Administrator of the EPA.
The White House should allow sufficient time for the Unites States Senate to exercise its constitutional right to advise and consent. It has only been 24 days since Hagel has been nominated to run the Department of Defense. On average, nominees spend 40 days being considered by the Senate. Today’s vote should serve as a sign that the Senate takes its constitutional role seriously and deserves further consideration of Cabinet-level nominees.
Opposition to Hagel has come from many different fronts, whether it be confusing responses on Iran, seeking disarmament of the United States, misleading testimony, or the Administration’s past secrecy on Benghazi, into which he would be propelled. The Senate is right to demand longer consideration and a resolution of these discrepancies before considering another vote on his nomination.