Tue Feb 12, 2013, 09:27 AM
DonViejo (25,555 posts)
McCain is Obama’s unwitting ally
On the Hagel nomination, John McCain is providing an important assist to the man who beat him in 2008
BY STEVE KORNACKI
Remember this week: History may record it as the only time in his presidency that Barack Obama was glad John McCain stayed in the Senate after losing the 2008 presidential race to him.
Ever since that election, McCain has delighted in sticking it to the White House whenever he’s gotten the chance, broadcasting his displeasure with seemingly every action Obama has taken, joining in just about every GOP filibuster of Obama’s agenda, and generally destroying the reputation as a principled maverick he once enjoyed. When the two have crossed paths in public, McCain hasn’t even tried to mask his ill will toward Obama. It’s hard to believe that less than a decade ago the Arizonan was every Democrat’s favorite Republican, to the point that some dreamed of him joining John Kerry’s 2004 ticket; today, McCain is universally seen on the left as nothing more than a sore loser.
All of which makes McCain’s posture on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Defense secretary somewhat remarkable.
Republicans, who have already altered the behavioral norms for opposition parties, are now flirting with taking the Hagel fight in an unprecedented direction. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jim Inhofe have in the past few days threatened to place holds on Hagel’s nomination. Holds, as Jonathan Bernstein explains, are a courtesy traditionally honored by the majority leader, allowing a senator from the opposition party to keep a bill or a nominee from reaching the floor, but they aren’t etched into the Senate’s rules. Inhofe is also talking about mounting a filibuster, which would require Hagel to secure 60 votes for confirmation.
Simply put, this sort of thing just isn’t done in the Senate – not when it comes to Cabinet nomination, and certainly not a Pentagon nomination that comes with the country at war. Or at least it hasn’t been done before. Only twice in the last 54 years has a Cabinet pick been voted down, and never in that time has one been denied an up/down vote by a filibuster or hold. And as Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out Monday, no Defense secretary pick has ever been filibustered. So if Inhofe or Graham follow through on their threats it could create a troubling precedent.
This is where McCain comes in. Officially, he’s leaning toward voting “no” on the nomination, and he did his best to rough up Hagel – and, possibly, to settle a personal score – at his recent confirmation hearings. There is no one in Washington who thinks there’s any chance McCain will end up voting for Hagel. But he’s also drawing a line against the kind of extreme tactics Inhofe and Graham are talking up. Repeatedly, McCain has voiced his opposition to a filibuster, and while he didn’t specifically address the question of a hold, he did say on Monday: “Bring it to the floor and vote up or down.”
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