Hagel wins confirmation vote in “narrowest vote ever for a defense secretary.” Bodes ill for U.S. policy in the Mideast.

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>> UPDATE: “Mr. Hagel was confirmed 58 to 41—the narrowest vote ever for a defense secretary. Some believe the largely party-line vote could leave Mr. Hagel, the successor to Leon Panetta, in a weakened position,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “A former Republican senator from Nebraska, Mr. Hagel becomes the first defense secretary who needed to garner 60 votes to pass a procedural hurdle before Tuesday’s confirmation vote. Earlier Tuesday, more than a dozen Senate Republicans put aside qualms about Mr. Hagel to join Democrats in a procedural vote that effectively ended a filibuster, paving the way for a confirmation vote. Just four GOP senators—Kentucky’s Rand Paul, Alabama’s Richard Shelby, Nebraska’s Mike Johanns and Mississippi’s Thad Cochran—voted for Mr. Hagel’s nomination. Mr. Paul had voted twice to delay the nomination, but after the second attempt failed, he decided to vote for Mr. Hagel….The hyperpartisan battle over a cabinet nominee is rare. Mr. Hagel will be the first Pentagon head to win confirmation despite opposition from dozens of senators. Eleven senators voted “no” on George C. Marshall’s nomination in 1950, the previous high, according to Senate records. Still, President George W. Bush’s attorney general nominees won confirmation by slimmer margins: John Ashcroft won by 16 votes, and Michael Mukasey won by 13.”

ANALYSIS: Hagel’s confirmation bodes ill for U.S. policy in the Middle East. More than three dozen Senators do not trust his judgment and lack of experience. Still others question his judgment and experience yet decided to vote for him in deference to the President. What teeth does U.S. diplomacy have with Iran over nuclear issues — and what credibility do we have in putting serious military option “on the table” (even as we hope not to have to use it) — when the new Secretary of Defense is on record as being strongly opposed to military action against Iran, and has had harsher words for Israel than for Iran?

ORIGINAL POST: “Chuck Hagel cleared a 60-vote procedural hurdle to confirmation Tuesday, setting up a final vote on his nomination as Defense secretary at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday,” reports Roll Call newspaper. “The Senate voted 71-27 in favor of invoking cloture on the nomination of former Sen. Hagel, R-Neb., to be the next Pentagon chief. Eighteen Republicans voted in favor of the motion, which required a three-fifths majority.”

“Hagel fell just shy of cloture on Feb. 14, with the Senate rejecting the motion to end debate 58-40; Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, voted present,” notes the Capitol Hill publication. “Tuesday’s cloture vote was a motion to reconsider the earlier vote that made Hagel the first Defense secretary nominee to be filibustered. Hatch and John McCain, R-Ariz., were among 11 senators who changed their vote. McCain, who called Hagel ‘the least impressive witness’ he has ever seen in his 26-year tenure in the Senate, said Monday he voted against cloture on Valentine’s Day because he ‘wanted the questions answered.’ Senators submitted more than 150 questions to Hagel after his Jan. 31 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. To be confirmed, Hagel only needs a simple majority, which should be easily achieved considering Hagel’s support among all Democrats and at least three Republicans.” Please call your Senators immediately to express your opposition to Mr. Hagel. The Senate switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

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