It was also a hard slap to a former colleague and member of the chamber.
Asked about the Senate vote during an online “fireside hangout,” Obama said that he expects that Hagel will be confirmed. But he slammed Senate Republicans for their “unprecedented filibuster” of a defense chief nominee.
“What seems to be happening, and this has been growing over time, is the Republican minority in the Senate seems to think that the rule now is that you need to have 60 votes for everything,” Obama said. “Well, that’s not the rule.”
He added that “it’s just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I’m still presiding over a war in Afghanistan and I need a secretary of defense who is coordinating with our allies” on U.S. strategy in the region.
Republicans predicted they would relent to a simple majority vote, guaranteeing confirmation, later this month -- but only if they see more information about Hagel’s post-Senate foreign policy speeches and his work in private investment groups. Senior Republicans initially scoffed at those demands, first raised by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), as unnecessary, but now party leaders hold them up as the main cause for delay.
Even if Hagel is eventually confirmed, the process marked another escalation in long-running nomination wars dating to the 1980s, now crossing into an area that has long been the most bipartisan on Capitol Hill: national security.
The Hagel fight also demonstrated the Republican fixation on the events surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed four American diplomats. GOP senators have clung to the tragedy as cause for holding Hagel’s nomination hostage in exchange for more details about the attack.
Such demands are commonplace in the Senate but are usually reserved for lower-level Cabinet posts or for deputy-secretary positions, not for the person who is in charge of overseeing more than 2 million service members — 66,000 of them in battle in Afghanistan.
“This isn’t high school, getting ready for a football game or some play that’s being produced at high school,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said during an angry floor speech Thursday morning. “This is - we’re trying to confirm somebody to run the defense of our country, the military of our country.”
The final tally Thursday was 58 votes to end the filibuster to 40 against, but actually 59 backed Hagel because Reid changed his vote to no so that he could use parliamentary rules to quickly reconsider the nomination when the Senate returns from its Presidents Day break Feb 25.