U.S. Senate Republicans defeated a motion today to end debate and call a floor vote on confirming former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as U.S. Secretary of Defense.
The 58-40 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to end the Republican filibuster. Republicans are saying they intend to allow a floor vote at the end of this month, but Democrats say this is the first time there has ever been a filibuster – however temporary – of a defense secretary nominee.
Here’s what U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said on the Senate floor before the vote:
“Mr. President, I am glad we are voting today on the President’s choice for Secretary of Defense, our former colleague, Chuck Hagel. I stand here as a Senator who has had a number of questions as well about some of the things he said in the past, some of the votes he has cast, and some of his philosophy. And what I did, as soon as I learned he was the President’s pick, was to ask those questions. Remember the President is the Commander in Chief. This is a critical appointment. It has to be someone he has faith in, puts his trust in, and he picked someone. He picked a brave hero who served in Vietnam.
“So I wrote all my questions down, and believe me, they covered some tough ground on women’s rights, gay rights, Iran, and Israel. There were a number of questions.
“I asked if it would be all right if when the answers came we could put them online so people could see the answers. The answer that came back was absolutely yes. The answers to my questions were very clear and very strong.
“Senator Hagel has evolved on certain issues. He admitted to a mistake on a couple. That is the hardest thing for any politician to admit. There are four words politicians hate to say – ‘I made a mistake.’ He admitted to that on a couple of issues.
“I just think the way he is being treated is so sad. It is so sad. When I watch some of the questioning from my colleagues — not all of them, a couple of them, and I am not referring to my dear friend, Senator Inhofe – it was reminiscent of a different time and place when someone would say: ‘I have here in my pocket a speech that you made on such-and-such a date,’ and, of course, nothing was in the pocket. It was reminiscent of some bad times.
“I am so glad we are voting today. I know it is going to be a close vote. I don’t know what the outcome will be. I do believe eventually this good man will be the Secretary of Defense. I believe that in my heart. If anyone is still undecided on this vote, let’s understand that never in history have we had a 60-vote requirement – to my knowledge – for a nominee for Secretary of Defense. If I am wrong, I hope to be corrected. There is a reason for it.
“Lord knows I was one of the key voices of dissent on the Iraq war, and I was not happy about a lot of the people who were put into place by George W. Bush. Believe me, I didn’t want to see them continue in those positions. I think they led us astray in Iraq, and it led to so many thousands of deaths. However, I never dreamed of requiring a 60-vote majority. In my view, this is not a good day for the Senate.
“I know my friend, Senator Inhofe, is very sincere. I am on the Foreign Relations Committee; I am a senior member of that committee. We have listened to the State Department on Benghazi. We have had briefings and hearings and answers came in. We had secret briefings that were highly classified. We had open hearings.
“I have to say, what more are you trying to get out of this? Benghazi was a crisis. It was a disaster. It was terrible. There should have been more security there, but don’t blame the brave Americans for it. Blame the terrorists who did this. As the facts became available, those facts came right out. Why are we trying to stop this good man because of something he had nothing to do with?
“In closing, I hope if you are on the fence, you will vote today for Chuck Hagel, and a ‘yes’ vote on cloture.”