News / USA

New US Defense Secretary Confirmed

FILE - Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 31, 2013.
FILE - Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 31, 2013.
Michael Bowman
— The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Barack Obama’s pick for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, after a bruising nomination battle that saw widespread Republican opposition to the former Republican senator by a vote of 58 to 41. Hagel will lead the Pentagon as America’s war in Afghanistan is winding down, and at a time of U.S. fiscal austerity.
 
The Senate confirmed Hagel Tuesday, just days before the start of automatic spending cuts, half of which will affect national security.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

“In three days, across-the-board cuts to defense spending are scheduled to take effect," said Reid. "The Pentagon needs a seasoned leader to implement these cuts.”

Two weeks ago, Republicans blocked a final vote on Hagel, saying they needed more time to consider the nomination.  On Tuesday, more than a dozen Republicans joined with Democrats to end debate.  But bipartisanship virtually disappeared four hours later, when all but four Republicans voted against confirmation in the Democrat-controlled chamber.

Senator John Cornyn was among those who cast a ‘no’ vote, citing Hagel’s statements at his confirmation hearing earlier this month.

“Senator Hagel described the murderous, terrorist-sponsoring Iranian theocracy as an ‘elected legitimate government’.  That comment is a slap in the face to all the courageous Iranian democracy activists who have risked their lives, and in many cases given their lives, to oppose the dictatorship and promote freedom.  There is no way to sugarcoat it: Senator Hagel’s performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was remarkably inept.  And we should not be installing a defense secretary who is obviously not qualified for the job," said Cornyn.

Cornyn and other Republicans also criticized Hagel’s comments on Iran’s nuclear program and Israel’s perceived clout in U.S. politics.

Democrats said many of Hagel’s comments have been mischaracterized or taken out of context.  Senator Carl Levin noted Hagel’s unique military background.

“Senator Hagel would be the first former enlisted man and the first veteran of the Vietnam War to serve as secretary of defense," said Levin. "This background gives Senator Hagel an invaluable perspective.”

Democratic Senator Tom Carper cautioned his Republican colleagues against setting a damaging precedent of partisan obstruction to presidential Cabinet picks.

“Some day we will have a Republican president again," said Carper. "Someday we will have a Republican majority here.  Just be careful - I say this with respect - be careful of the bed that we make.  Because someday our friends on the other side [Republicans] will get to lie in it.”

Republicans countered that President Obama should have put forth a less-divisive nominee who would have attracted bipartisan support.

Senator Roger Wicker:

“If a Republican president in the future brings a nomination for defense secretary to this Senate who cannot get as many as 60 votes, I will ask that Republican president to withdraw that nomination, and wish this president [Obama] would do the same," said Wicker.

Chuck Hagel
  1. Chairman of the Atlantic Council public policy group
  2. Co-chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
  3. Republican U.S. senator from 1997-2009 representing Nebraska
  4. Served in Vietnam in 1968, where he earned two Purple Hearts
  5. Born in 1946 in Nebraska
Has the contentious confirmation process left Chuck Hagel a weakened defense secretary?  Analyst Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute says no, and predicts Hagel’s relationship with Republican lawmakers will improve.

“A lot of those wounds will, if not be healed, at least be ameliorated. Once he [Hagel] is there, they [Republicans] will not want to undermine his ability to manage the Defense Department, unless he does something that they think is shockingly bad," said Ornstein.

Hagel succeeds Leon Panetta, who served as defense secretary beginning in 2011.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid