Will Chuck Hagel clear the Senate? White House thinks so

Defense Department

The White House still thinks it has the Senate votes to put Chuck Hagel in the top job at the Pentagon, but concedes it would be a narrowly won victory.

After a confirmation hearing last week that did nothing to help Hagel's candidacy, the Obama administration counts about 57 senators as supporting his nomination to lead the Defense Department. A handful more have said they would oppose a filibuster.

Hagel is continuing his Capitol Hill courtesy calls this week, scheduled to meet with roughly 20 senators, which would push his total to about 72, a senior administration official said.

And those meetings are said to have gone better than his public berating at the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"They have a very different tone than that hearing had," the official said, adding that the administration was "very confident" Hagel would clear the Senate.

Last Thursday’s hearing, during which Hagel was grilled extensively over his support for Israel, his position on Iran, and his opposition to the Iraq War, reinvigorated Republican criticism of the former GOP senator. In a Meet the Press appearance on Sunday, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs praised Hagel, but said he came off as “unimpressive and unprepared” during the hearing.

The administration official acknowledged that Hagel’s performance had not enriched his candidacy, but countered that Republicans had missed opportunities in dwelling on Pentagons past, rather than pose questions about how the department will manage the 66,000 troops still in Afghanistan when they come home, including veterans’ issues like post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It was probably the most political defense secretary hearing we’ve ever seen,” the official said, calling it “a new kind of hearing.”

Two Republican senators, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mike Johanns of Nebraska, have said they will vote for Hagel.

Administration officials acknowledged they were unsure whether Republicans would filibuster. They said they did not expect Republicans to pluck any Democratic votes.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters on Tuesday he would like to learn more about his former colleague. “We asked him about going forward, but the best way to judge what a person will do going forward is to look at what he’s done in the past,” Graham said. “There’s some information about some speeches he’s given that I’d like to evaluate, in my view.”

Asked what he thought of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a close Graham friend and ally on national security issues, announcing that he would not support a filibuster, Graham replied, “Did he say that? I didn’t see that. I’m not there yet. But filibustering is something I do very reluctantly. But again, I hope the president and his team will reevaluate this nomination. We live in very dangerous times and we want to have as much bipartisan support as possible for important positions like this. And quite frankly give the public confidence that we know where we are going.”

Pressed on his filibuster stance, Graham said, “Time will tell what we should do.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.