A vote on Chuck Hagel's nomination to be defense secretary is now scheduled to take place after Congress returns from their week long vacation for President's Day, February 26. In D.C. yesterday, 58 senators voted to advance his nomination, 40 voted against. Actually it would have been 59, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted no, to allow himself the opportunity to bring back a vote later on.
That was just one vote shy of the 60 needed to break a filibuster and get Hagel through the Senate and into the Pentagon. It should be noted that John Ashcroft, President Bush's choice to be his Attorney General in 2001, had substantial opposition as well, but did get through on a 58-42 vote. Something to think about when you hear how "unprecedented" it is for a cabinet choice to generate so much controversy.
The big question now over the course of the next 11 days is - can Hagel's critics dig up more dirt on him? Yesterday a videotaped speech that he gave in 2007 (where he said that the U.S. State Dept. was being run by the Israeli Foreign Ministry) surfaced, further firing up his critics who think his philosophy is rooted too much against the Israeli government.
More problematic for Hagel and the White House was his lackluster performance in front of an Armed Services panel last month. Regardless of the motivations (some Republicans say this is about Benghazi, which Hagel had nothing to do with), this is some old-fashioned hardball tactics going on in D.C. A total sideshow, of course, but wasn't the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton15 years ago? Call it political theater, but it's serious, and definitely some Republicans see this fight as way to hurt President Obama.
Meanwhile Sunday night in Ybor City David Cobb will be speaking. Who's he? Well he ran as the Green Party presidential candidate in 2004, but over the past few years he's led the Move to Amend campaign designed to repeal the 2010 Citizens United decision on corporations.
The League of Women Voters are not fans of a proposal moving through the Florida Legislature that would increase the limits individuals can contribute to candidates from $500 to $10,000.
And today we're scheduled to learn how much it would cost to have all new employees in the Florida Retirement System pay into a 401(k)-style pension plan, as Governor Rick Scott and other Tallahassee Republicans want to end the current defined benefit pension plan for such workers. Critics say the system is doing fine right now with no danger of bankrupting the state.