Republicans snub White House, delay vote on Hagel

Republicans snub White House, delay vote on Hagel

Republicans snub White House, delay vote on Hagel

Former Sen Hagel takes his seat as he arrives at his confirmation hearing. Republicans has succeeded in delaying a Senate vote on confirming him. AFP photo

U.S. Senate Republicans successfully blocked Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be President Barack Obama’s next Pentagon chief on Feb. 14, forcing a 10-day delay in his confirmation vote.

By a vote of 58-40 with one member voting present, Democrats failed to overcome a procedural roadblock put up by Republicans who had demanded more time to receive answers to their questions.

Before allowing a vote, Republicans had demanded more information on Hagel’s finances and on Obama’s role in responding to an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya last year.

It leaves Hagel’s nomination in limbo while the Senate takes a week-long recess. Democrats needed 60 votes to end debate on the nomination and head to a floor vote.

Obama reacted immediately, accusing Republicans of playing politics with the nation at war.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor after the vote to rail against the move, which he saw as “embarrassing the president” at a time of tensions in the Middle East, ongoing war in Afghanistan and North Korea recently testing a nuclear device. “Republicans have made an unfortunate choice to ratchet up the level (of partisanship) here in Washington,” a furious Reid said. The defeat does not doom Hagel’s nomination to lead the Pentagon in Obama’s second term, and Reid has already said he would call another procedural vote on the first working day after next week’s break.

Clinton made it: Panetta

“Senator Hagel is going to be confirmed, if not tomorrow then when the Senate returns from recess.” Several Republicans including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said on Feb. 14 were ready to drop their blocking tactics, but only after the recess, frustrating White House demands for a vote by the end of this week.

“I really really do hope that nothing happens during the next 10 days, when we won’t have a secretary of defense.... I hope nothing goes wrong,” Reid said.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joked Feb. 14 that he hoped he would be allowed “to get the hell out of town” and retire as planned.

At an event honoring recently retired Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 74-year-old Panetta said he was anxious to relinquish the reins as Pentagon chief and expressed envy that Clinton had been liberated from her duties.

“She’s made it. And, you know, I’m going to have as broad a smile as she does, hopefully, in a few days,” he told military officers and diplomats at the Pentagon. “My office is packed up,” he said, and his wife, Sylvia, was packing up his home in Washington.

Compiled from AFP and AP by the Daily News staff