Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has warned fellow Republicans they will be held accountable if they vote to end an ongoing Senate filibuster over the nomination of embattled secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel, the Washington Free Beacon reports.
“Make no mistake; a vote for cloture is a vote to confirm Sen. Hagel as Secretary of Defense,” Inhofe wrote in a strongly worded letter to his Republican colleagues on Thursday, according to the Free Beacon.
Several of the Republicans have indicated in recent days that they would vote to end debate on Hagel’s nomination, paving the way for his confirmation.
Hagel’s nomination stalled last week when Senate Democrats could not muster the 60-votes needed to end a Republican filibuster of the nomination.
If just a few Republicans defect on Tuesday when the Senate resumes consideration of the nomination, Hagel is assured approval.
In the letter Inhofe warns his Republican colleagues that a vote for Hagel would imperil the nation’s security.
“As the Senate once again considers the Hagel nomination, it is essential to remember a vote for cloture is a vote to confirm Sen. Hagel as Secretary of Defense,” Inhofe wrote.
“We should not let claims about presidential prerogatives and precedents dissuade us from carefully assessing the judgment and positions of this nominee. The president can do better,” he added.
“Remember,” Inhofe wrote, “our nation’s security is at stake as you cast your vote on Tuesday.”
Inhofe’s missive appears aimed at several key Republicans who have expressed support for Hagel.
Three Republicans have said they would vote for Hagel’s confirmation (Sens. Richard Shelby, Mike Johanns, and Thad Cochran); a handful of other Republicans have said they will vote to advance the nomination to a full vote even if they do not vote for Hagel, which in effect would assure his confirmation.
Republican Sens. Deb Fischer (Neb.), Lisa Murkowski (Ala.), and Susan Collins (Maine) have said they will vote for cloture.
Inhofe rebuts Democratic claims that the delay of Hagel’s nomination has been an unprecedented and warranted move.
“I know the Senate had traditionally deferred to the president on cabinet nominations. However, our nation is at war,” Inhofe wrote. “The Senate must insist on confirming only the most effective leaders, not only to keep our nation safe, but to ensure our service members receive the leadership they deserve.”
“Unfortunately, I firmly believe Sen. Hagel’s well-established record does not meet this essential requirement for confirmation,” the letter states.
Inhofe goes on to outline his top concerns regarding Hagel, which include his controversial comments about Israel, his desire to cut the nation’s nuclear arsenal, and his desire to increase outreach to Iran.
The Republican Jewish Coalition, along with countless others, has cited a long list of Hagel’s anti-Israel policies, asserting that his nomination would “be a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel.”
Hagel, however, recently claimed that there is “not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israeli, not one (Senate) vote that matters that hurt Israel.”
Earlier this week, a publication of Hagel’s statements from a 2010 meeting with university students showed yet another anti-Israel statement.
Hagel reportedly said that Israel is becoming an “apartheid state,” and dismissed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as “a radical.”
Hagel’s statements were revealed by a student who was present at the event. Former student Kenneth Wagner shared an email he wrote during Hagel’s talk with the Washington Free Beacon.
Despite all the criticism, however, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicted this week that Hagel will likely be confirmed.
“No, I don’t believe he’s qualified, but I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further, because I think it’s (been) a reasonable amount to time to have questions answered,” McCain said, denying that Republicans’ attacks on Hagel were personal in nature.
“99 percent of it has to do with the positions Senator Hagel has taken,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press”.