(Senate - February 14, 2013)

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[Pages S721-S722]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                            HAGEL NOMINATION

  Mr. REID. Mr. President, in less than 2 hours our country will be 
without a Secretary of Defense at a time when we have a war going on in 
Afghanistan and about 70,000 troops there. We have a nuclear weapon 
which was detonated in North Korea a few days ago. They are 
threatening, as they have publicly on other occasions, but after this 
bomb was set off, that they are doing it to attack us. We have this 
situation in Iran with all their very militaristic statements against 
  All over the world America is involved in matters dealing with our 
military. I met the night before last in my office with the man who 
killed Osama bin Laden. I talked to him about his 16-year career as a 
SEAL and the places he went around the world protecting the interests 
of the United States. It wasn't just in Afghanistan, not only in 
Pakistan, but all over the world.
  To think we have now in the Senate a situation where we are going to 
wind up without a Secretary of Defense at this time. We had all the 
talk--you know, we have some questions about Senator Hagel.
  Keep in mind he is a Republican. They say: We have some questions to 
ask. But publicly a significant number of Republican Senators have said 
they would not filibuster.
  Remember, there has never in the history of the country been a 
filibuster of a Defense Secretary nominee--never.
  I needed to file cloture. Not all the shows, but a number of shows, 
attacked me last night. They said: We told Reid and all these people we 
shouldn't have agreed to the rules changes because this is what we have 
going on.
  I am ignoring that, but it is shocking that my Republican colleagues 
would leave the Nation without a fully empowered Secretary of Defense 
during all the things we have going on in the world, including a war. 
Several of my colleagues requested a letter from the President. A 
letter was sent at their request to the chairman of the committee, 
which is standard procedure, with Senator Levin answering all their 
  They said: We need that letter so we may vote. One stall after 
another. I am told now that the letter was sent to the chairman of the 
committee, and that is not good enough. They want it sent to individual 
  This isn't high school getting ready for a football game or some play 
that is being produced at high school, we are trying to confirm 
somebody to run the defense of our country, the military of

[[Page S722]]

our country. That letter was received yesterday about 4 o'clock, and 
now they have indicated they want something else.
  A committee of jurisdiction, the Armed Services Committee, has 
extensive information on Chuck Hagel. They have as much information 
that is available on the Benghazi situation: testimony from 
administration officials, from multiple committees, and from an 
independent review board. Secretary Clinton testified; Secretary 
Panetta, who is going to be leaving his job in less than 2 hours; 
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey; and others have all 
testified regarding the attack that claimed four American lives. Chuck 
Hagel had nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi. Stating the 
administration hasn't been forthcoming is outlandish.
  There are serious consequences to this delay, consequences that are 
occurring right now.

  The President is making some important decisions about Afghanistan. 
He announced to the world just a day or two ago that 34,000 troops will 
be coming home during the next year from Afghanistan. We are 
negotiating with the Afghan Government regarding how we will support 
them beyond 2014. Negotiations are going on right now.
  I heard today from former Senator John Kerry that he is headed for 
the Middle East. Why? Syria. That is something else the Secretary of 
Defense has to be concerned about.
  Next week while we are on recess--while we are on recess--they are 
having a NATO Defense Ministers meeting in Brussels about what to do to 
coordinate our approach on Afghanistan and the rest of our obligations 
as members of NATO. It is going to be somewhat unusual that the United 
States isn't represented by the Secretary of Defense. We will not have 
one if we don't get this done this week.
  I am sure they are going to focus on how to end the war responsibly 
in Afghanistan, how our alliance will work together through the time of 
transition, and how we can ensure Afghanistan doesn't become a safe 
haven for al-Qaida again. We need a Secretary of Defense at that 
meeting. It sends a terrible signal to the hundreds of thousands of 
troops we have around the world and the military personnel in the 
United States that we are not going to have a Secretary of Defense.
  Republicans are telling our troops: Well, you may have a leader 
later. What is going on in Europe, the Brussels conference, doesn't 
really matter.
  It sends a terrible signal not only to our military personnel but to 
the world.
  He has answered exhaustive questions about his record. He has the 
support of the President of the United States.
  I heard a lot of speeches from the other side saying the President 
should have the right to choose whomever he wants. He has the support 
of this body, the majority vote in this body, and this democracy. We 
are a nation at war. We are, whether we like it or not, the world's 
indispensable leader. We are.
  For the sake of our national security it is time to put aside this 
political theater, and that is what it is. People are worried about 
primary elections. We know how the tea party goes after Republicans 
when they aren't conservative enough. Is that something they need to 
have on their resume: I filibustered one of the President's nominees? 
Is that what they want?
  The filibuster of Senator Hagel's nomination is unprecedented. I 
repeat, not a single nominee for Secretary of Defense of our country 
has ever been filibustered--never, ever. As we all know, in a matter of 
days across-the-board cuts are going to take place, and it will affect 
defense to the tune of $600 billion. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a 
Secretary of Defense to work things out?
  Leon Panetta, after more than 30 years of service to this country--
Congress, chairman of the Budget Committee, OMB, the President's Chief 
of Staff, head of the CIA, Secretary of Defense--after all these years 
has gone home to his farm, his family in California.
  We do not have, as of 12 o'clock today, a Secretary of Defense. These 
across-the-board cuts are going to be very difficult. The Pentagon 
needs a leader to oversee and manage historic cuts and ensure they are 
made in a responsible way.
  A moment about Hagel. He was an enlisted man in the Vietnam war. He 
didn't have to go; he enlisted. The story of Senator Hagel is not a 
legend, it is true. He was a heroic warrior. He was an infantryman. He 
saved his brother's life.
  When he was a Senator here the picture he had was of him and his 
brother in Vietnam on a personnel carrier. He is proud of his service. 
He should be. He was wounded two times, an infantry squad leader, and a 
man of integrity and dedication who has a deep understanding of our 
national security establishment. This came not only from his military 
service but as a Senator, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, 
and a member of the Intelligence Committee. He has been a member of the 
President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
  At a time when America faces so many threats--I have outlined just a 
few of them--all across the world our Nation needs a man of Senator 
Hagel's combination of strategic and personal knowledge. We need a 
Secretary of Defense. It is tragic that they have decided to filibuster 
this qualified nominee. It is really unfortunate.