Senator James Inhofe (R–OK) has sent a letter urging members to vote against confirming former Senator Chuck Hagel (R–NE) for Defense Secretary. This letter follows on the heels of the letter from a group of 14 Senators urging President Obama to withdraw the nomination.
The Senate returns from recess Monday, February 25, and the Senate will have to first vote for cloture on the filibuster against Hagel’s confirmation. The vote is expected to take place no later than Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) has refused to make the Hagel confirmation a super-majority vote, meaning that just 51 Senators need to be in support in order to break the filibuster.
Yet, Inhofe argues persuasively that a 60-vote threshold (or super-majority vote) for Hagel would have been appropriate given the controversial nature of this nomination. This has already been applied to two controversial cabinet-level nominations during President Obama’s time in office—the 2009 nomination of Kathleen Sebelius to be Secretary of Health and Human Services and the 2011 nomination of John Bryson to be Secretary of Commerce. It would also have been appropriate in this case.
The main points of Inhofe’s oppositions are:
- Hagel’s support of global nuclear disarmament in the “Nuclear Zero” report, which he is refusing to disavow;
- Disparaging comments made by Hagel and lack of support for U.S. ally Israel;
- Lack of management experience at a time when the Pentagon faces debilitating budget cuts;
- Advocacy of engagement with Iran and opposition to sanctions; and
- Softness on terrorism, specifically refusing to accept Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a sponsor of terrorism.
“I know the Senate has traditionally deferred to the President on Cabinet nominations,” writes Inhofe. “However, our nation is at war. The Senate must insist on confirming only the most effective leaders, not only to keep our nation safe, but to ensure our service members receive the leadership they deserve. Unfortunately, I firmly believe Senator Hagel’s well-established record does not meet this essential requirement for confirmation.”
Many would agree.