It Just Doesn’t Matter

So conservatives are still high-fiving each other over the pounding that Chuck Hagel took yesterday from Republicans on the Armed Services Committee, and it was probably Jennifer Rubin’s favorite day since the invasion of Iraq. But Chuck Hagel looking foolish and unprepared isn’t going to much matter unless one of two things happens: a major loss of Democratic support for the nominee that makes 50 votes to confirm problematic, or a decision by Republicans to filibuster confirmation when it gets to the Senate floor. There are zero signs of the first thing happening. And the second would be unprecedented, as Slate‘s David Weigel notes:

If Republicans can hold 41 of their 45 members and oppose Hagel, theoretically, they can block him. But there’s very little precedent for that, and Democrats may already have 57 votes. The last Cabinet nominee who straight-up lost a Senate vote was John Tower, facially easy to compare to Hagel because he, too, had been a senator, and he, too, was up for Defense…..

But Tower was a Republican nominee rejected, with 53 “no” votes, by a Democratic Senate. Since 1975, when the margin for a filibuster was set at 60 votes, no Cabinet nominee has ever been subjected to it.

So the best summary of the situation was the headline WaPo’s Chris Cillizza offered yesterday’s after Hagel’s ordeal: “Chuck Hagel was bad. And it doesn’t matter.”

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.