Susan Collins Will Vote for Cloture on Hagel; And, the Emerging Hagel "Delay" Gambit

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 13 2013 3:42 PM

Susan Collins Will Vote for Cloture on Hagel; And, the Emerging Hagel "Delay" Gambit

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Susan Collins makes it semi-official: She will vote for cloture on Chuck Hagel's nomination, then vote against confirming him to run the Department of Defense. "It's a very long statement!" she told reporters as she left a (successful) vote to confirm a Mainer to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. And it is, burying the lede:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

As a general rule, I believe a President has the right to choose the members of his Cabinet, and only in extraordinary circumstances should such a nomination be filibustered. I oppose Senator Hagel’s nomination, but I cannot join in a filibuster to block each Senator’s right to vote for or against him.

Who else agrees with Collins? I bothered a few senators who, generally, are disinclined to pitch fits over nominees, and I got inconclusive answers.


"Until I hear from John McCain and some of the other guys who have pending questions," said Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, "or are waiting to hear from the White House ... once I know all the facts, I'll make that decision."

Sen. Orrin Hatch also hesitated to answer. "I'm not there yet" on cloture, he said. But both Isakson and Hatch preceded their comments by reminding me that cloture had yet to be filed on Hagel. It was a strange kind of caveat—when a nominee makes it out of committee, cloture on the nomination isn't a wild hypothetical question.

My theory? Not all Republicans are as theatrical as Lindsey Graham. They are cool to the idea of an "unprecedented filibuster" of a Cabinet-level nominee. But if they can reframe the filibuster as something else—if it's merely a delay, and they can talk about approving him later—well, then, they get the recess to beat him up (or completely fail to beat him up, as happened this weekend) or beg the White House for more, more, more Benghazi information, like the president's exact actions on the night of the attack.

As loath as the White House is to discuss that, senators seem to think they'll get something. I asked McCain whether the White House had given him anything on Benghazi since he resurrected the filibuster threat. "Not yet," he said, "but I'm optimistic." Sen. Carl Levin, asked whether the McCain questions were fair, shrugged and went along.

"I don't know how it relates to this particular question," he said, "but it's a fair question, and I think it'll get answered."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Republicans Like Scott Walker Are Building Campaigns Around Problems That Don’t Exist

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

The World

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies

They’re just not ready to admit it yet.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 2:11 PM Spare the Rod What Charles Barkley gets wrong about corporal punishment and black culture.
Sept. 16 2014 2:35 PM Germany’s Nationwide Ban on Uber Lasted All of Two Weeks
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 1:27 PM The Veronica Mars Spinoff Is Just Amusing Enough to Keep Me Watching
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 1:39 PM The Case of the Missing Cerebellum How did a Chinese woman live 24 years missing part of her brain?
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.