Tennessee senators played their part in a Republican effort to stall the confirmation process for President Barack Obama’s secretary of defense nominee, Chuck Hagel.
Both Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker cast votes to prevent Hagel from gaining the 60 needed after a procedural rule was invoked by Republicans to continue debate. Declining to use the word “filibuster” to describe the action, both Alexander and Corker said they supported prolonging the process out of a desire for more information regarding Hagel’s post-Senate career.
Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, was nominated by the president to replace current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Hagel received two Purple Hearts.
Reports out of Washington, D.C., described Thursday’s vote as “unprecedented” and “highly unusual.” Despite citing the need for more discussion on Hagel, both Republican and Democratic senators are preparing to leave the nation’s Capitol for a 10-day break.
In news releases distributed after the vote, both Alexander and Corker said they expected Hagel’s nomination to be considered in an up-or-down vote, as usual.
Alexander said he would oppose Hagel.
“Chuck Hagel is a patriot, but by virtue of his views and experience, he is not the right person to lead the world’s largest military organization in dangerous times,” he said.
Corker, who in the past said he thought Hagel’s “temperament” could be a concern during Senate hearings, was less forthcoming on whether he would eventually support or oppose the nominee. The senator and former Chattanooga mayor said his vote for delaying procedure was in part driven by the concerns of his colleagues.
“Generally, I believe a president’s Cabinet nominee deserves an up-or-down vote in the Senate, but in this case, I believe a number of my colleagues have raised legitimate concerns about information that hasn’t yet been made public and that extending the debate gives more time for these concerns to be addressed,” Corker said. “Once sufficient time has passed, I am perfectly open to a 51-vote threshold.”