The Republicans successfully blocked Senator Hagel’s nomination to the post of Secretary of Defense today. Why’d they do that?
Brian Beutler argues that it’s more about the sanctity of Senatorial prerogatives, specifically the right to place a “hold” on a candidate for any reason at all, than it is about Hagel specifically.
It’s highly unusual for a cabinet-level nominee to need 60 votes for confirmation, let alone for them to fail to muster 60 votes. But it’s not unprecedented for senators – even members of the president’s own party – to place holds on cabinet-level nominees. And a hold is nothing but a threat to require a 60-vote threshold on a nominee or a bill unless and until some extraneous issue is resolved. Normally the way this plays out is that the majority leader honors the hold, the holding member works out some understanding with the leader or the administration, and the hold is released.
But that’s not what Harry Reid did this time. Instead, he filed cloture on Hagel’s nomination in effective defiance of Republicans placing the holds.
One can only speculate as to why Reid did this. It may be that he’s angry with these clowns; after all, it wasn’t more than a couple of weeks ago that he and McConnell made a deal to avoid changing filibuster rules with the understanding that nominations would get done more quickly, and now they’ve made a mockery of that deal on the very next nomination they see. And it may further be that he wants to make a fuss about this behavior in the media, as well he should.
Personally, I’d like to see him say “Okay, you’re not playing by the rules of the deal we just made, so to hell with it. We’re changing the rules to allow simple majority votes be sufficient to get bills passed for the remainder of the 113th Congress.” His colleagues and possibly even Reid himself worry that if they do this the Republicans will do the same thing the next time they have a majority in the Senate, and somehow if the Democrats refrain the Republicans will also in that instance. I call hogwash. The moment Mitch McConnell gets to be Majority Leader in the Senate the first thing he’ll do is abolish the filibuster for that Congress, and Reid ought to realize it.