In the first ever filibuster of a nominee to the post of Defense Secretary, Republicans on Thursday blocked the appointment of former senator Chuck Hagel for at least 11 day, while senior Democrats voiced their readiness to confirm Hagel on Feb. 25th after next week’s congressional recess.
Though after the scandal he was involved into current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was expected to delay his exit from the post, Democrats called the void dangerous amid national security threats including the Afghan war and North Korea’s recent nuclear test.
“Republicans have made an unfortunate choice to ratchet up the level of obstruction here in Washington,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
GOP senators explained their decision to block the Hagel nomination as they want more time to debate and review the record of the Nebraska Republican, reports The Daily News.
“I really there is a coalescing around the idea that two days after committee vote is too soon for somebody this controversial,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “After the break, unless there’s some bombshell, I’d be prepared to move on to vote for it.”
Republicans are demanding additional information on speeches the potential defence secretary on the attack on the US consulate on Benghazi, Libya, last September, influencing U.S. foreign policy.
“Those kinds of things after a while get old,” said Graham, who added that he was not sure whether the account of the speech was true.
“These delaying tactics are unconscionable and they should end right away,” said Josh Earnest, a spokesman for President Barack Obama.
“It’s difficult to explain to our allies exactly why that’s happening. It also sends a signal to our men and women in uniform who are deployed around the globe”.
Democrats were furious at the delay, saying that this is the first time in history that the procedural tactic known as a filibuster had been used to block a defense nominee, something disputed by Republicans.
“I’m going to go call Chuck Hagel when I finish here and say I’m sorry, I’m sorry this has happened,” the Senate majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid said on the Senate floor after the vote.
Democrats also suggested that Republicans were putting the country at risk by delaying the filling of a major security post.
“My expectation and hope is that Chuck Hagel, who richly deserves to get a vote on the floor of the Senate, will be confirmed as our defense secretary,” Obama said in an Internet question-and-answer session hosted by Google+.
“It’s just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I’m still presiding over a war in Afghanistan.”
If confirmed, Hagel would replace 74-year-old Leon Panetta, who has previously announced he will remain in his post until his successor replaces him but is looking forward to retiring to his California walnut farm.
As Reuters writes, Thursday’s vote meant Panetta has to remain at his job faces at least two more weeks before leaving Washington.
According to Pentagon spokesman George Little, Panetta would continue to serve as defense secretary and attend a NATO meeting in Brussels next week.