From its anti-democratic design, to its bizarre rules, to the absurd way it is run, the United States Senate is simply a terrible institution. Yet whenever I think my opinion of the chamber can’t get any lower the Senators manage to find a new way to disappoint me. The recent failure of the cloture vote for Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary brings Senate stupidity to a new low.
In an unprecedented move the cloture vote failed 58 for, 40 against, with one abstention. While the media often glosses over this problem, we should all let the insanity of that sink in. Only in a legislative chamber as grossly dysfunctional as the Senate would a routine measure fail because 58 people voted for it and 40 voted against. Only in a place as idiotic as the Senate would the vote about ending debate on an issue be given more power than the actual vote on the issue.
What raises this vote below the general stupidity of how the chamber is always run is why Hagel was blocked. While I’m not a personal fan of Hagel, Obama did win re-election and is entitled to choose people to run the executive branch he heads. The Senate morally is obligated to let him create a functional government as long as he appoints qualified people.
If Hagel was unqualified, possibly involved in scandal, determined to have committed a crime, or even if senators were not given enough time to vet Hagel, blocking his nomination might be reasonable. None of that applies in this case. There has been no real scandal, no indication Hagel could not handle the job, and given that many of the Republican senators voting against him served with him for over a decade, they have had plenty of time to form an opinion.
As far as I can determine from Republican statements the reasons they are blocking the appointment of a fellow Republican is because he said mean things to Bush, and they wanted to make the White House do something about a completely unrelated matter. This is not advising or consenting. This is childish grudge-settl;ing and political hostage taking.
It is hard to know what is more disgraceful, why the minority chose to block Hagel or the fact that the majority has so pathetically abdicated their role by choosing to needlessly give the minority the power to do something so petty and stupid.
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