Though former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel will likely be confirmed this week as President Obama’s defense secretary, as soon as he steps into his job he will be staring at the prospect of slashing billions of dollars from the Defense Department budget because of the “sequester” cuts.
As Politico points out, in his first week on the job Hagel could lose $40 billion from his budget, then on March 27 he is slated to lose another $6 billion when the “second sequester” cuts go into effect.
It is the ultimate symbol of Washington’s dysfunction that Defense Department cuts that virtually all of the lawmakers oppose still will go forward because the two sides can’t agree on the most basic of premises.
“It’s not an easy job to step into at any time, but it’s really tough now,” Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon comptroller during George W. Bush’s administration and a onetime adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, told Politico.
The Hagel nomination is being pushed by advocates ranging from the New York Times to Minister Louis Farrakhan. The Farrakhan endorsement is so upsetting to some Republicans that they seemed to view it as reason enough to oppose Hagel.
“You need a man in government that has another opinion that is not controlled, and if the Senate does not confirm him as defense secretary because of his opinion on Israel, that only proves that the Senate in the U.S. Congress is controlled by the Israeli lobby,” said Farrakhan, who has been railing against the influence of Jews for years. “And it also sentences America to war with Iran for the state of Israel.”
In an editorial today, The New York Times said the filibuster against Hagel’s nomination, led by Arizona Sen. John McCain and others, was “pernicious” from the start.
“Nothing in the public record remotely warrants disqualification, despite a vicious and long campaign by Republicans against him,” the Times said. “In particular, Mr. Hagel has been pilloried by former Republican colleagues in the Senate who proclaim devotion to the nation’s defense but thought nothing of politically battering Mr. Hagel even if, as many admit, they could not defeat him. Mr. Hagel already has enough on his plate managing the budget cuts that start kicking in on Friday, leading the troops and representing the United States globally.”
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 Richard Shelby of Alabama.