Executive Sessionby Senator Lamar Alexander
Posted on 2013-02-14
ALEXANDER. I thank the Senator from Arizona. Probably the best
known function of the Senate--constitutional responsibility--is the
right of advise and consent. We take it very seriously. Here that means
we have to consider what happens. The Armed Services Committee, upon
which I do not have a chance to serve, completed its consideration of
Senator Hagel's nomination 2 days ago. Now it is before the whole body.
He is the President's appointee. The President has a right to appoint
people in whom he has confidence. But we have a constitutional
responsibility to consider the nominee.
A number of Republican Senators have questions, including the Senator from Arizona, the Senator from South Carolina, that they would like to have answered. I think they are entitled to that. I think if the shoe were on the other foot and it were a Republican President making a nomination, Democratic Senators would say the same thing: Give us a reasonable amount of time to consider this nomination on the floor of the Senate.
I have a little experience in that myself. The first President Bush nominated me to be U.S. Education Secretary about 20 years ago. I thought I was a fairly noncontroversial nominee, much less important than the Secretary of Defense. But I remember very well, it was 87 days between the time the President announced my nomination and the day on which the Senate unanimously confirmed me.
There was, at the time, a Senator from Ohio named Metzenbaum, who for whatever reason decided the Senate needed more delay to consider my record and my background.
There is nothing new about this. I would respectfully suggest that the majority leader's motion to cut off debate on Senator Hagel, made 2 days after his nomination comes to the floor of the Senate, is premature.
Republican Senators have questions they would like to have answered. I think they are entitled to do that. When we come back from recess, 10 days from now, I think that is sufficient time to consider those questions. I will vote for cloture so we can have an up-or-down vote on the President's nominee for the Secretary of Defense. I think the President is entitled to that but not prematurely.
I thank the Senator from Arizona for yielding time.