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Nomination Battles Are Flourishing

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Hagel’s nomination fight has been one of the most contentious in recent memory.

President Barack Obama, who once fantasized about a dream Cabinet fashioned after Abraham Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals,” now faces the less glamorous task of filling his second-term Cabinet.

And that process — like so many other polarizing subjects in Washington these days — has not been easy. Obama’s rumored first choice for secretary of State, United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice, withdrew her name from consideration after Republicans launched a campaign against her because of public comments she made in the aftermath of the September terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. And Obama’s selections for Defense, Treasury and the CIA have faced similar troubles as senators seek answers on everything from that terrorist attack to the classified drone program and the administration’s outlook for Medicare.

A successful filibuster of any Cabinet nominee would be the first in U.S. history, but senators do have a precedent of stalling nominees they find questionable until they get the answers they want or the nominee withdraws.

Not all of Obama’s picks face intense scrutiny, but even in the cases where his selections are not controversial, the job ahead for his appointees is far from simple.

Department of Defense: Chuck Hagel

Hagel’s nomination fight has been one of the most contentious in recent memory, with Republicans still mulling whether they will force a time-consuming 60-vote threshold on his confirmation, even though it seems there would be enough votes to overcome such an attempted filibuster.

In recent days, Republicans opposed to Hagel sought to delay a vote in the Armed Services Committee in an attempt to strengthen their hand in the wake of Hagel’s uneven performance before the panel last week. That effort paid off Wednesday when Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced the panel’s review of the nomination was not yet complete.

Hagel’s record as a two-term senator and past controversial remarks he made came under intense scrutiny at that confirmation hearing. Senators pressed him on statements in which he challenged the closeness of lawmakers to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, his position on Iranian sanctions, and negative comments he once made about openly gay people serving in the military. But GOP lawmakers also clearly had a beef to settle over Hagel’s opposition to certain policies in Iraq advocated by President George W. Bush, such as the surge in troops.

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