Republicans delay Barack Obama's defence chief nomination
Filibuster in Senate delays confirmation of unpopular choice of defence secretary
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Friday 15 February 2013
Democrats reacted with outrage at the Republican filibuster of Chuck Hagel as the next US Defense Secretary, as they raced to paint their opponents as prime culprits for the renewed political gridlock already evident in Washington just weeks into President Barack Obama’s second term.
The latest twist in the contentious Hagel saga took place late on Thursday when the former Republican senator failed to obtain the 60 votes on the Senate floor needed to clear the way for an up-or-down confirmation vote – a near-unprecedented use of the procedural blocking device against a nominee to one of the most important Cabinet posts. “It’s just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I’m still presiding over a war in Afghanistan, and I need a secretary of defense who is coordinating with our allies,” Mr Obama tartly commented.
If some Republicans are to be believed, a similar filibuster could also stall confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director, further complicating the installation of the administration’s national security team.
In fact, Mr Hagel’s ultimate confirmation is scarcely in doubt. In the roll call, he fell short by just a single vote, 59 to 40, and there has been no sign that his nomination will be withdrawn. Several Republicans who voted against him on Thursday said they would drop their resistance when the Senate reconvenes in 10 days time. Given the Democrats’ 55-45 majority, the outcome of a final vote would be little more than a formality.
But at the very least it means an unwelcome stay on the job for the outgoing Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, itching to return home to California for good. “I’m looking forward to the chance to get the hell out of town,” he declared at a Pentagon ceremony in honour of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Instead he now has to go to Brussels for a Nato meeting on post-conflict Afghanistan next week.
Several reasons explain the Republicans’ hostility to Mr Hagel. The public ones are objections to his record on Israel and gay rights, and a desire to root out the truth about the 11 September 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, for which the Hagel confirmation is a convenient bargaining tool.
But there is a personal element as well: not just a widespread disappointment – shared by many Democrats – at Mr Hagel’s limp performance at his confirmation hearing last month, but an abiding resentment at how he turned against the 2003 Iraq war, launched by a Republican president and which Mr Hagel originally supported.
Normally a past or present Senator nominated to high office is treated with special courtesy by his old colleagues – witness the friendly treatment of John Kerry, Ms Clinton’s successor at the State Department, who was confirmed by a majority of 94 to three. Not Mr Hagel however, widely regarded as a traitor to the cause.
The showdown may presage bitter partisan fighting on other fronts, as Congress tackles immigration reform and the federal budget deficit. Formulas must be found to avert both the automatic $85bn of government spending cuts, the so-called “sequester”, due to take effect on 1 March, and a potential government shutdown when temporary budget spending authority runs out on 27 March.
Republicans insist they are not mounting a filibuster against Mr Hagel merely a temporary delay to extract additional information. Either way however, their tactics fly in the face of a deal when the new Congress was sworn in in January, supposed to limit senators’ use of the filibuster. “Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it got worse,” said Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader.
Threat of 'catastrophic cascade of collisions' must be averted, warn scientists
Oxford is the least affordable city in the UK, where houses cost 11 times local salaries
Wellcome Image Awards: The most striking images from the world of science, including breast cancer cells under chemical attack and a photographer’s own kidney stone
Space debris orbiting Earth to be destroyed with giant lasers fired from Australia
Swarm of killer bees sting woman 1,000 times
Oscar Pistorius murder trial: Athlete repeatedly sick as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's post-mortem
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 2 North Korea elections: Kim Jong-un wins 100% of the vote
- 3 David Cameron resorts to paying for Facebook fans because not enough people like him
- 4 Steve Irwin’s final words: Cameraman present at death opens up about deadly stingray attack for the first time
- 5 Sharknado 2: Former WWE wrestler Kurt Angle to fight second wave of flying sharks
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client is a leading digital agency bu...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Charter Selection: Global leader in its respective ...
£130 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Do you have a qualificatio...
£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: The school is much la...