Roll Call reports a story that will come as a surprise to no one except Jennifer Rubin:
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said Monday that so far, he has not counted a single Democratic “no” vote on the question of whether former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel should be confirmed as Defense secretary.
Hagel, whose nomination has drawn fire from his fellow Republicans, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday for his hearing. Though the session with the panel is expected to be testy, Hagel will likely clear that hurdle before facing a 60-vote threshold in the full Senate. But even Republican aides are quietly conceding he is likely to get the three-fifths majority he needs to prevent a filibuster.
Hagel’s confirmation hasn’t been in doubt for the last two weeks, but it’s encouraging to see that there have been no setbacks along the way. There are probably many Democratic Senators, especially those from Republican-leaning states, that can’t commit to voting to confirm too quickly. There are also likely to be several Senate Republicans that will feel obliged to drag their feet before concluding that Hagel is acceptable, but once it comes time to vote it would be startling if there were more than 20 Republican nays. Once Hagel officially became the nominee, there was never much chance that he would be rejected. Senate Democrats have no reason to deny Obama his preferred appointee, and Senate Republicans have to know that they would be correctly pilloried as fanatics if they worked to defeat one of their party’s own members for a Cabinet post for which he was well-qualified.
The Hagel confirmation vote is as a good opportunity to test how out-of-step with the country the GOP still is on matters of national security and foreign policy. If Senate Republicans want to be seen as hard-line ideologues or as politicians catering to hard-line ideologues, most of them will vote against Hagel. If they wish to be perceived as somewhat reasonable and not entirely beholden to the party’s hard-liners, most will vote yes. 15-20 Senators voting no would still be an extraordinary and absurd level of resistance to a qualified nominee, but at this point it is probably the best that Republicans and conservatives interested in a reformed foreign policy can expect.