The vote draws to a close a contentious chapter in which GOP senators bitterly went after Hagel. Freshman Ted Cruz, R-Texas, notably implied during the Senate Armed Services markup that Hagel may have received money from “radical or extreme groups” because the nominee had not disclosed his finances beyond what the committee required. Hagel’s testimony before the Armed Services panel was shaky, prompting John McCain, R-Ariz., to call Hagel “the least impressive witness” he has ever seen in his 26-year tenure in the Senate. But despite the lackluster performance and the GOP’s best efforts, the Armed Services panel reported the Hagel nomination in a 14-11 party-line vote Feb. 12.
Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who voted against Hagel’s confirmation at every step of the way, again voiced his opposition to the nomination Tuesday.
“Which Chuck Hagel are we being asked to confirm,” Wicker asked, “the one who shoots from the hip and means what he says, or the one who is now willing to say anything to be confirmed? We need a secretary of Defense who can stand before the world and articulate that America is opposed to a nuclear Iran and rejects a policy of containment. We need a secretary of Defense who can stand before the world and be clear that the Iranian government is not a legitimately constituted government. We need a secretary of Defense with broad bipartisan support. Sadly that secretary is not Chuck Hagel.”
Although Hagel’s confirmation process did not go as smoothly as many had hoped, Levin shot down assertions Tuesday that the tough confirmation battle would weaken Hagel as he prepares to take over the Pentagon.
“He’s a professional guy,” Levin said. “He’s been through the political rough and tumble for much of his life, so he’s going to put that aside.”
Despite the GOP filibuster on the nomination, Levin said the Senate “worked in a fairly traditional Senate way.”
Alan K. Ota and Megan Scully contributed to this report.