Quin is Wrong on Procedure, Right on Substance
In light of the volleys exchanged, let’s review how a senatorial hold works.
From the U.S. Senate’s reference page on chamber rules:
hold - An informal practice by which a senator informs his or her floor leader that he or she does not wish a particular bill or other measure to reach the floor for consideration. The majority leader need not follow the senator’s wishes, but is on notice that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure.
Note the part stating, “The majority leader need not follow the senator’s wishes, but is on notice that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure.”
What’s a filibuster?
filibuster - Informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.
Bear in mind that the majority leader, i.e. Harry Reid (D-NV), “need not follow the senator’s wishes…” Recall also Reid’s musings that he’d like to enact the so-called ‘nuclear option’ to remove the usual supermajority requirement for overcoming a filibuster, and replace it with a simple majority. So, if the Senate Democratic caucus wants to, they can 1) refuse to honor any hold requests on Hagel, and 2) change Senate rules on filibusters to shut down the opposition. With several news outlets reporting that President Barack Obama is ready to pick a fight over Hagel, I think Reid does both if Republicans try to kill Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary with obstructionist procedural tactics.
Maybe if Hagel was nominated for some second tier Cabinet office Republicans could get away with relying on informal procedures to block his next career move. But with Obama riding high after the fiscal cliff negotiations – Quin’s optimism notwithstanding – I think Republicans will lose, and lose big, with the public if they try to kill Obama’s top Pentagon pick on procedure rather than substance.
It should be said that I don’t disagree with any of Quin’s criticisms of Hagel. Instead, my point of departure is with Quin’s reliance on procedural obstruction rather than tough questioning and reasoned argument. Conservatives have one of the most intellectually articulate groups of senators in living memory with the likes of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and others. Let them and military stalwarts like John McCain and Lindsey Graham make a coordinated, sustained case against Hagel and his views on foreign policy. In the process, they might even discover a countervailing vision that convinces the American people.