Saturday, February 2, 2013

So Much for Senate Decorum...

It's interesting, but one of the key takeaways I had from the Hagel hearings was the tenacity of freshman Senator Ted Cruz in grilling the Defense Secretary nominee. It was like watching the changing of the guard, from the establishment old to the tea party new. And the establishment old came out looking worse for the wear. It was a decorum issue, to some extent, although since Cruz was nowhere near the Senate when Hagel was serving his two terms, I guess the traditional demands of collegiality and deference don't matter worth a sh-t.

At the New York Times, "Decorum Becomes Less Traditional in a Hidebound Senate":
WASHINGTON — If Senator John McCain had an inkling of curiosity how his old buddy Chuck Hagel felt as the senator raked him over the confirmation coals on Thursday, Mr. McCain would get a slight taste an hour later during his own rendezvous with rudeness.

That is when Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky took to the Senate floor to deride Mr. McCain’s opposition to his measure that would punish Egypt as “spurious and really, frankly, absurd,” not the first time Mr. Paul has wielded verbal scythes toward his colleagues.

The willingness of Republicans to skewer one of their own became increasingly apparent on Friday as more and more members of the party peeled away from Mr. Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, saying they would not vote to confirm him after Mr. Hagel melted like chocolate on a dashboard under combative questioning from Republicans.

Still, Republican senators and aides said that despite a halting performance, Mr. Hagel would probably be confirmed with Democratic votes. A filibuster of his nomination is still possible, a likely first for a cabinet nominee. Aides to Senators John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, and Ted Cruz, a Texas newcomer, said Friday that they had not ruled out procedural roadblocks to stop Mr. Hagel’s nomination.

But Republican Senate aides say Democrats would probably be able to muster 60 votes to move to a final, up-or-down tally.

“For a cabinet office, I think 51 votes is generally considered the right standard for the Senate to set, and at that level, I think he makes it,” Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the Republican leadership, said Friday on Fox News, even as he announced his opposition to Mr. Hagel.

The White House shared that view.

“I would be stunned if, in the end, Republican senators chose to try to block the nomination of a decorated war veteran who was once among their colleagues in the Senate as a Republican,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.

Privately, White House officials agreed that Mr. Hagel came across poorly. “No one would argue that he had a good performance,” said one official, who declined to be named to be more candid.

Mr. Hagel has long been on the outs with some party mates because of policy disagreements with them over the years, which sometimes made him seem more like a Democrat. But stemming from their Senate ranks as he did, the intensity of their grilling was striking and illustrative of how the old ways of the Senate are disappearing.

With the current era of hyperpartisanship in Washington, the intra-Senate discord has reached new levels in the usually approbatory chamber in recent months, a place where a certain level of respect for fellow and retired members of the same party is generally more or less a given.