After hours of debate yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, along strict party lines, with a 14-11 vote. Hagel is expected to narrowly be confirmed by a full vote in the Senate as soon as Minority Ranking Member Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) says all holds placed on the nomination are cleared. While reasons such as financial disclosure and – in the case of Senator Graham - information on Benghazi have been given for holding Hagel’s nomination, such holds are essentially due to Hagel’s heterodoxy on foreign policy.
In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious. It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.
As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens. The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.
President Obama’s foreign policy team is undergoing a makeover, with the nominations of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan as CIA Director. All three gentlemen are expected to be confirmed; Kerry already has, Hagel will likely be confirmed (following an abysmal hearing) later this week, and Brennan faces his confirmation hearing this Thursday, which will essentially be the GOP’s final chance to hold Obama accountable for broken national security policies.
The GOP squandered two opportunities to ask proper questions of Kerry and Hagel. The Kerry confirmation hearing was a jovial affair for one of the first advocates on intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which, by the way, received no congressional authorization. When Kerry was questioned about congressional authorization, he essentially bragged about his history of support for unilateral Executive action in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, and yes, Libya.
Ted Cruz (R-TX) has ruffled some feathers since joining the Senate in January. Shortly, after President Obama unveiled his gun control proposals, Cruz dismantled arguments for the Assault Weapons Ban, calling it a “singularly ineffective piece of legislation” and slamming its proponents for misleading Americans.
He was one of three members to vote against John Kerry’s confirmation to serve as Secretary of State and he lead the charge against Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense, though he did cross a line in his questioning.
Cruz, who won the GOP nomination for Senate with heavy grassroots support against an establishment candidate, is seeing the benefits of his cavalier attitude back in the Lone Star State, according to a new poll:
Texas’s Junior Sen. Ted Cruz has been making some waves since joining the U.S. Senate, and it’s earning him solid poll numbers back home, a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey has found.
Early last year, President Barack Obama made recess appointments to add three new members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The Constitution allows a president to make such appointments when the Congress is not in session. And therein lies the problem with the moves made by President Obama — the Senate, which is constitutionally required to confirm appointments, was still in session.
The appointments were challenged in court by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans, who argued that President Obama had acted unconstitutionally. Today, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with McConnell, ruling that President Obama had indeed abused his authority:
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said Obama did not have the power to make three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board because the Senate was officially in session - and not in recess - at the time. If the decision stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions made over the past year.
The court said the president could only fill vacancies with the recess appointment procedure if the openings arise when the Senate is in an official recess, which it defined as the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress.
Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Elena Kagan as the nation’s 112th Supreme Court justice on Saturday, making one-third of the nation’s highest court women for the first time in history.
Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Roberts telephoned Kagan to offer “warm congratulations” Thursday, shortly after the Senate confirmed her to the post. The 63-37 vote represented a victory for President Obama, who has doubled the number of women ever named to the Supreme Court with his first two nominees.
“I am confident that Elena Kagan will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice,” Obama said in Chicago, where he was traveling. “And I am proud, also, of the history we’re making with her appointment.”
Kagan, 50, was the first woman to serve as U.S. solicitor general and the first woman dean of Harvard Law School. When the court reconvenes on the first Monday in October, Kagan will join Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor as the first trio of women serving together as justices.
We’ve pointed out some of the questions about Kagan. Her views on the free speech, the Second Amendment and the Commerce Clause are questionable, at best. There is little question that she will be another vote for the power of the state.
President Barack Obama has nominated Elena Kagan, currently his solicitor general, to the Supreme Court to fill the opening that will be created by Justice John Paul Stevens when he steps down before the next term:
If confirmed by the Senate, Kagan would become the third woman on the high court. At 50, she is relatively young for the lifetime post and could help shape the high court’s decisions for decades.
The former Harvard Law School dean “is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds,” Obama said. He introduced her in the White House East Room as “my friend.”
Kagan said she was “honored and humbled by this nomination.” She called it “the honor of a lifetime.”
“I look forward to working with the Senate and thank you, Mr. President, for this honor of a lifetime.”
Obama cited what he called Kagan’s “openness to a broad array of viewpoints” and her “fair mindedness.”
In a statement issued before Kagan had completed her remarks, the lawmaker who will preside over her confirmation hearing, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said, “The Senate should confirm Ms. Kagan before” Labor Day.
The good news for President Obama is that she doesn’t have much of a paper trail, therefore she is probably a “safe” pick. However, she has never been a judge, though she was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1999, but a hearing on her confirmation wasn’t scheduled, killing the nomination. Some Republicans are already , but reaction is largely split.
In order from worst to not-all-bad:
Strongly-ideological, highly-committed gun prohibitionist: Harold Koh.
Extensive record of anti-Second Amendment leadership: Secretary of State Clinton, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Gov. Deval Patrick.
Mixed record, but with very little positive: Amy Klobuchar.
Mixed record: Cass Sunstein, Janet Napolitano [negatives include the ridiculous Dept. of Homeland Security report conflating political dissent with terrorism; as governor she signed some pro-right to arms legislation, and vetoed other bills], Jennifer Granholm [like Napolitano, a mixed record as governor, including signing some important reforms].