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  • Executive Session

    by Senator James M. Inhofe

    Posted on 2013-02-26

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    INHOFE. Excuse me. Would the Senator from Michigan yield for a question? Mr. LEVIN. Of course.

    MR. INHOFE. It is my understanding that we have equally divided our time between now and noon. That is about 1 hour 40 minutes. I ask unanimous consent, on the Republican side, that I be given the first 10 minutes and the last 15 minutes of our Republican time.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, it is now time for us to vote up or down on the nomination, for many reasons.

    The nomination has been before us for an adequate length of time for us to get the information our colleagues have asked for, but also there is the looming fact of sequestration. We need to have a Secretary of Defense who is not only in office but whose leadership is not in limbo but is there. Our troops need it. Their families need it. Our country needs it.

    As of today we have 66,000 military personnel in harm's way in Afghanistan. The President of Afghanistan has just directed the United States to remove its special operations forces from a key Afghan province. Our military faces key decisions about the pace of the drawdown between now and the end of 2014, the size and composition of a residual force, and the terms and conditions for the ongoing presence in Afghanistan of the United States and our coalition partners after 2014.

    At the same time we face new and growing threats elsewhere, including the ongoing threat posed by Iran's nuclear weapons program and the increasingly destructive civil war in Syria, with the risk that that conflict could result in the loss of control over that country's substantial stockpile of chemical weapons. There is also the growing instability in other countries affected by the Arab spring; the growth of al-Qaida affiliates in ungoverned regions, including parts of Yemen, Somalia, north Africa; and the continued unpredictable behavior of the nuclear-armed regime in North Korea.

    We face these challenges at a time when the Department of Defense budget is under unique pressure as a result of cuts previously agreed upon by Congress, the budgeting by continuing resolution, and the impending threat of a sequester. These across-the-board cuts will affect Defense and just about every other agency we have. Those cuts are going to be disastrous in many ways. I hope we can still find ways to avoid them, but as of right now the threat of a sequester is a real one. It is within a few days.

    The Department of Defense has already instituted civilian hiring freezes, reduced or eliminated temporary and term employees, deferred facilities maintenance, and begun canceling or postponing the maintenance of ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles. In the next few days, the Department will begin to implement additional actions, including furloughs for most civilian employees, cutbacks in flying hours, steaming hours and other military training, and cancellation of contracts. And those contracts, when they are cancelled, have major costs to the Treasury. Those are not savings, except in the short term, perhaps. But in [[Page S822]] the long term, we not only lose the equipment and the product of the contracts, but we also have these cancellation costs which will hit the Treasury.

    The result of these looming cuts is truly devastating and it is serious. For example, the Army informs us that if sequestration continues through the end of the fiscal year, two-thirds of its brigade combat teams will fall below acceptable readiness levels. The Air Force says it will not be able to support requirements outside of Afghanistan and will experience significant degradation in its airdrop and refueling capabilities. The Navy says the Nimitz and the George H.W. Bush carrier strike groups will not be ready for scheduled deployments later this year, resulting in an indefinite extension of the Truman and Eisenhower deployments, with the resulting impact on morale and retention.

    Hundreds of Department of Defense investment programs, acquisition programs, and research and development projects may become unexecutable because we have insufficient funds to enter needed contracts. By the end of the summer, the Department of Defense says it will be unable to pay its TRICARE bills and will be in a position of having to deny that critical health care service to military members, families, and retirees.

    Our men and women in uniform need a Secretary of Defense to lead them through these difficult challenges. They need a Secretary of Defense to defend their interests in the budget battles we know are about to come. They need a Secretary of Defense to speak out and ensure that Congress and the country understand the consequences of sequester and, if the sequester cannot be avoided, to help them avoid the worst of those consequences and to end the impacts as quickly as possible. Now, as much as anytime in the recent past, is not a time when we can afford to leave the Department of Defense with leadership that is in limbo.

    Information has been requested, appropriately, by colleagues about the nominee. Information has been provided to the best of the nominee's ability. This information falls into two categories: requests for Senator Hagel's speeches and requests for additional financial disclosure.

    With regard to the speeches, Senator Hagel and his team have conducted an exhaustive review and have provided us with all of the speeches available to them--not only the prepared statements requested in our committee questionnaire but also transcripts and even videos of speeches he has been able to obtain from outside sources. Before the recess, I placed in the Record links to several other speeches that had surfaced on the Internet.

    In recent days, Senator Hagel has received additional requests for speeches in the exclusive control of the Washington Speakers Bureau and for access to his senatorial archives at the University of Nebraska.

    On the first point, the Washington Speakers Bureau has informed Senator Hagel and the Department of Defense that all speeches given under its auspices are ``private, off the record, and not recorded''-- except in rare cases where a customer requests that a recording be kept for archival purposes only. Further, the Department of Defense informs us that the Washington Speakers Bureau will not provide any recordings of speeches that were given by Senator Hagel or even confirm which of its clients may have recorded speeches. Since neither Senator Hagel nor the Department of Defense has access to these speeches, they cannot be provided to the Senate.

    On the second point, the University of Nebraska holds title to Senator Hagel's archives. The University has publicly stated that once the archives are processed and indexed according to the standards of the Society of American Archivists, they will be open to the public. Until that time, the archives will not be open to the public. Again, since neither Senator Hagel nor DOD has access to these materials, they cannot provide them to us. It is also worth noting that these archives cover the period of Senator Hagel's service in the Senate. Senator Hagel has an extensive record of speeches and votes during this period that are readily accessible to the Senate and the public through the Congressional Record and other official documents.

    With regard to financial disclosure, Senator Hagel has complied with the same disclosure requirements and conflict of interest rules that have applied to at least the last eight Secretaries of Defense and to hundreds of other nominees for senior DOD positions over the course of the last five administrations.

    Despite his compliance with the same disclosure rules that apply to everybody else, we have heard innuendos that Senator Hagel is trying to hide something. Senator Hagel serves with a number of distinguished individuals on the Board of Advisors of a private equity firm. We had one Senator suggest, without any evidence, that ``it is, at a minimum, relevant to know'' if the fees that Senator Hagel received for his service on this Board ``came directly from Saudi Arabia, [or] . . . from North Korea.'' Another Senator suggested that we should postpone a vote on the nomination because ``FOX News is going to run a story tomorrow regarding some speeches . . . which were made and paid for by foreign governments . . . [that] may not be friendly to us.'' This story apparently died before it was aired, because it was apparently based on a hoax.

    These are unfair innuendos and they have been answered even though they are unfair.

    Senator Hagel has an extensive record of service to his country. As a young man, he enlisted in the Army and served with distinction in Vietnam. He served as the head of the USO, and as the Deputy Administrator of the VA during the Reagan Administration. He was a businessman. Many of us served with him during his two terms in the Senate. Since he left the Senate, he has continued to serve, as co- chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a member of the Defense Policy Board, and a member of the Energy Department's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.

    Senator Hagel has been endorsed by five former Secretaries of Defense, three former Secretaries of State, and six former National Security Advisors, who served under both Democratic and Republican Presidents. He has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, AMVETS, Vietnam Veterans of America, and the American Legion. He has received the support of the Military Officers Association of America, the Foreign Area Officers Association, and the Non Commissioned Officers Association.

    Last month, Senator Hagel was endorsed in a letter signed by six former U.S. Ambassadors to Israel, along with dozens of other retired senior diplomats. The letter stated: We support, strongly and without qualification, President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense. Most of us have known the Senator for a decade or more and consistently have found him to be one of the best informed leaders in the U.S. Congress on national security issues.

    Senator Hagel's political courage has impressed us all. He has stood and argued publicly for what he believes is best for the United States. Time and again, he has chosen to take the path of standing up for our nation, rather than the path of political expediency. He has always supported the pillars of American foreign policy: a strong military; a robust Atlantic partnership; a commitment to the security of Israel, as a friend and ally; a determination to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and the defense of human rights as a core principle of America's role in the world. . . .

    We urge speedy confirmation of this outstanding American patriot to be the next Secretary of Defense.

    If confirmed, Senator Hagel would be the first former enlisted man, and the first veteran of the Vietnam War, to serve as Secretary of Defense. This background gives Senator Hagel an invaluable perspective not only with respect to the difficult decisions and recommendations that a Secretary of Defense must make regarding the use of force and the commitment of U.S. troops overseas, but also with respect to the day-to-day decisions a Secretary must make to ensure that our men and women in uniform and their families receive the support and assistance that they need and deserve. It would be a positive message for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in harm's way around the world to know that one of their own holds the highest office in the Department of Defense.

    The President needs to have a Secretary of Defense in whom he has trust, who will give him independent advice, [[Page S823]] a person of integrity and one who has a personal understanding of the consequences of decisions relative to the use of military force. Senator Hagel certainly has those critically important qualifications and he is well-qualified to lead the Department of Defense.

    The vote which is coming at noon is a vote to invoke cloture to end the debate so we can finally, later on today, hopefully, but at some future hour, finally vote on this important nomination and end the situation where this nominee is in limbo and the leadership of the Department of Defense is uncertain and in limbo as well. The time has come to vote on the nomination of Senator Hagel, and to do that we must end debate and invoke cloture.

    I yield the floor.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Oklahoma.

    Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, first of all, I agree with a lot of what the distinguished chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has said. Certainly Senator Hagel has had a brilliant military career. I sometimes look at my time in the Army and his time in the Army and mine is very unimpressive. That is not what the issue is.

    I do think it is interesting in the debate we have had on the floor, all the time from the Democrats has been talking about his military record. Nobody disagrees with that. That is a fact. But there are some things that have to come out because they are very significant.

    First of all, what we are going to vote on at noon is the vote. There is not any other vote. The vote after that is merely a simple majority and that would be automatic. Those who are expressing where they are on the Hagel nomination must be reflected in the vote that takes place now, the cloture vote at noon today. Our time is equally divided. Leadership time did take up some of that so we are a little bit scarce on time. First, let me make it real clear this is the one vote that makes a difference. If they are able to get 60 votes for the Hagel nomination, it is history. It is over.

    I do wish to say a couple things for clarification before others on our side start speaking. One is about the whole idea of a 60-vote threshold. I have been listening to some of the pundits on television. One of my favorites--I will not mention her by name, but she is kind of the leader of the far left on television. I was watching her a couple days ago and she was talking about how this is something that never happened before, we have never had a 60-vote margin on a Cabinet-level position.

    This is not true. It happens all the time. It is normal. This is how significant this confirmation vote is. It is not something that would make it go for a long period of time. Actually, I have lists. Later on, if there is time, I am going to go over some of these. Kathleen Sebelius, for example, that was a 60-vote margin; John Bryson for Secretary of Commerce, 60-vote margin.

    Here is an interesting one. Back when President Bush, who was a Republican, was President, he nominated Stephen Johnson to be the EPA Administrator. He was a Republican. The President was a Republican. Stephen Johnson was a Democrat. Of course the other side was saying, no, we are going to demand to have cloture, and they finally did get 61 votes on that; Dirk Kempthorne, same thing, Secretary of the Interior.

    This idea that this is the first time is just not right. I would appreciate it if people would be a little more honest when they are looking at that issue.

    They also have said we are in the middle of the wars, which we are. I am the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee. No one is more sensitive to it, no one spends more time talking to the troops than I do, and we do need to have confirmed a Secretary of Defense. Leon Panetta has said he will serve until such time as one is confirmed. But if we go ahead and if this should for some reason not be able to come up with 60 votes, I suggest they go ahead and nominate someone else and we will run it through. I would even help them.

    I called Leon Panetta not too long ago--I guess I should not say this on the floor--and asked: Why don't you agree to serve again? He has, of course, family reasons, and I certainly understand he was unable to do it. Michele Flournoy, I commented, would be one. I don't agree with her philosophically on a lot of things, but I think she is one who would not be controversial. Ash Carter--we have a number who could be confirmed in a matter of minutes, and I would be right there with them in order to help that take place.

    I do wish to say something about advice and consent. Sometimes people do not understand it. I had someone go back and research this. It started back in 1787. At the Constitutional Convention they talked about it. Back then they used the term ``approbation or rejection of the Senate.'' It means the same thing. This has been going on for a long period of time. Certainly, in the Federalist Papers, Hamilton talked about it as long as he talked about any other subject. So ``approbation or rejection of the Senate'' is the rejection language that was used at that time that is advice and consent today.

    Where are we today? Certainly, the distinguished chairman of the Armed Services Committee, from whom we just heard, is one of the strongest supporters of advice and consent who has said: ``It is shocking and sad to me that the Senate may vote on this nominee''--it doesn't matter, it could be any nominee--``while Senators are being denied critical, relevant information.'' The leader of the Senate has also said many times, he said ``raising the impression that the nominee and the White House have something to hide.'' This is exactly what now is going on in reverse. It goes on and on with different ones who have stated over and over again the significance of the role that the Senate has in advice and consent.

    John Kerry said: What the Senate has to decide is whether it is going to stand for the rights of the committees, the rights of advice and consent. The Senators ought to respect the fact that both the chairman and ranking members had requests and those requests had not been fulfilled.

    That is exactly what happened. We have one of the new Senators for whom I have a great deal of respect, Senator Cruz. I was talking to him last night. I said: You ought to come down and let them know why it is you are not speaking on this. He said: Look, what else can I do? I have requested over and over and over again for information on our nominee for Secretary of Defense and I have been denied. I have been stonewalled. What else can I say? I said--maybe it sounded a little extreme the other day when I said I would walk through fire for the ability of our members on the committee to get all the information they are entitled to. Senator Cruz has not received that information. That is something that I think is very critical.

    What I want to do, in the short time I have left over--by the way, I ask unanimous consent, if following me, if Senator Coats could be acknowledged for 5 minutes.

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