It now appears that Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel finally has enough votes to be confirmed by the Senate. That does not mean, however, there still won’t be any last-minute maneuvers to delay the process yet again.
Republicans are already damning the former Republican senator from Nebraska with faint praise.
‘‘He’s probably as good as we’re going to get,’’ Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told Alabama’s Decatur Daily in explaining why he would drop his opposition. Shelby voted with fellow Republicans last week to filibuster Hagel’s nomination, the first filibuster ever for a defense secretary candidate.
Opponents have questioned Hagel’s support for Israel, tolerance of Iran and willingness to cut the nuclear arsenal. His opposition to the Iraq war after his initial vote for the conflict angered his one-time friend, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Republicans also want to pressure the Obama administration into providing more detailed answers about the administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
McCain has said many in the GOP have a long memory about Hagel challenging President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and have not forgiven the nominee for not supporting Bush as an act of party loyalty. McCain said he didn’t think Hagel was qualified but wouldn’t stand in his way.
Shelby and McCain’s decision not to continue fighting the appointment gives Hagel the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster, especially after senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted last week to allow the nomination to move ahead and are expected to do the same next week.
Once the nomination reaches the Senate floor, only a simple majority vote is needed for confirmation.
Hagel is expected to get all 55 Senate Democratic votes and the support of three Republicans — Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Shelby.
But some Republicans won’t give up the fight.
Within hours of Shelby’s announcement, two quixotic letters were issued from Hagel’s strongest opponents. One pleaded with Republican senators to stick together against Hagel’s nomination. The other asked President Obama to withdraw Hagel’s name from consideration because he lacked bipartisan support and confidence that he was the right person for the job.
So Senate Republicans won’t stop Hagel from moving forward, but there’s always tomorrow.
And his name is John Brennan, the nominee to become CIA director, whose candidacy is being challenged by Democrats as well as Republicans seeking more information about the U.S. policy on the use of drones.
So stay tuned for more Senate shenanigans.
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”