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August 21, 2014

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Reid, Heller divided on historic Hagel block

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Steve Marcus

Sens. Dean Heller, left, and Harry Reid attend a Memorial Day ceremony in Boulder City on May 30, 2011.

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Republican Chuck Hagel, President Obama's choice for defense secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.

For the first time in history, the Senate blocked a defense secretary nominee who had received prior approval of the Armed Services Committee.

“Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it gets worse,” Sen. Harry Reid said, chastising all but four Republican senators for an “embarrassing display of disregard for our national security” in voting against moving ahead on former Vietnam veteran and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination to take over from Leon Panetta at the Defense Department Thursday.

The Senate came just one vote shy of securing the 60 votes that would have been necessary to all but settle Hagel’s confirmation. But Republicans blamed Reid for forcing them to make a rush judgment, only two days after the Armed Services Committee approved Hagel’s Cabinet bid on a party-line vote.

“I’m going to vote no,” Nevada Sen. Dean Heller said before the vote. “I think there’s some questions that need to be answered.”

Republicans have launched several objections against Hagel, accusing him of being soft on Iran and weak on Israel. But their latest argument boils down to a procedural complaint: Hagel still hasn’t furnished answers to lingering questions about his financial disclosures.

“We’ll come back a week from now, and if those questions have been answered, then we’ll go ahead,” Heller said. “If he produces those background disclosures, I think he becomes the next secretary of defense.”

The block pushes off another vote on Hagel’s nomination for at least 10 days, as Congress is scheduled to be out of Washington for Presidents Day week. After then, Reid said, they will try again. But there’s no guarantee of a different outcome.

“There’s nothing that's going to change in the next 10 days about the qualifications of Chuck Hagel,” Reid said. “We have a war going on in Afghanistan … North Korea earlier this week tested nuclear weapons … The Middle East is in turmoil and Iran is still threatening everyone, including us … it would be nice if we had a secretary of defense.”

If Hagel’s bid is to be successful, at least one Republican will have to flip sides at the next vote.

It’s unlikely that Heller will be their guy.

“I do have some issues on some of [Hagel’s] answers during the [Armed Services] hearing,” Heller said, declining to elaborate, but adding that he would “probably not” be comfortable with Hagel as secretary of defense.

Democrats are closely eyeing Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the only “present” vote on Thursday, to change his vote the next time around.

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  1. How dare you Dean Heller ,shame on you . You go right back in there and vote the way Harry says to, who do you think you are having a mind of your own? . Attention attention everyone Harry insist you let him do your thinking for you and don't dare try to voice your opinion, Harry has it all under control just look into the light , look into the light, you're getting sleepy very sleepy.

  2. If I remember correctly from the hearing, Hagel didn't keep notes of his speeches as a private citizen. Republicans then requested the transcripts of all of his speeches for the last two years, including the money received and from whom.

    They also demanded information on Benghazi, in which Hagel had no involvement.

    This is just more Republican obstructionism masquerading as a witch hunt, so nothing has changed, except that they have no honor left.

  3. The cannibalization by Republicans is becoming frightening. Any Republican, who dares to do what the American people are demanding"WORK TOGETHER AND COMPROMISE"becomes the enemy within their own party. They seem completely out of touch with reality. If Hagel is not fit to serve as Secretary of Defense, then he wasn't fit to serve as a Republican Senator either.

  4. The Republicans want more information on Benghazi attacks, 4 killed, but have forgotten about the Iraq invasion, ~4,490 killed. Why aren't they asking for more information about the Iraq war which had no justification?

    The Republicans want a Defense Secretary who is totally supportive of an invasion of Iran. They want a Secretary that will not hesitate to follow the IDF in a preemptive invasion of Iran. They want the US Military to be inextricably linked to the IDF such that there is no margin for consideration. They start the war, we finish it and pay to bury the bodies that come home.

    Al Qaida spent about $500,000 on 9/11 while America spent (threw away) at least $3 trillion: $6 billion for every $1 Al Qaida dollar. There are billions to be made for the privileged on war.

    The National Debt will grow so fast with an Iranian war that Medicare, Social Security, Post Office, Dept of Education, etc. will all be slammed on the table for big cuts to scavenge the cash that China will not lend.

    The GOP are worried, really worried, that Hagel may opt for diplomacy. It's the word they have learned to hate.

  5. Reid caved on REAL filibuster reform and we see the consequences of that with Hagel's confirmation put on hold (read filibuster).

    As for the GOP having "questions" on Benghazi, they have been answered by Sec Clinton and Sec Panetta as well as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Hagel was not and is not involved in anything regarding the "straw man" that is Benghazi.

    Taking a 10 day recess while sequester looms, and we have no new defense secretary or director of the CIA is essentially dereliction of duty by the US Senate. The HR is derelict as well. They find the time to freeze public sector federal pay until the end of the year, conveniently excluding their own pay. Breathtaking obstruction of issues that they refuse to address, unless, in Boehner's words "the Senate must act first".